Mueller Got More Attention Than Sri Lanka, Notre Dame Combined

Mueller Got More Attention Than Sri Lanka, Notre Dame Combined
AP Photo/Jon Elswick
Mueller Got More Attention Than Sri Lanka, Notre Dame Combined
AP Photo/Jon Elswick
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As the Mueller report and its aftermath dominated the headlines once again this week, it can seem at times like the media have featured uninterrupted, almost wall-to-wall coverage of the issue for the last two months. But has that been the case? Specifically, how have two other major stories, the Notre Dame fire and the Sri Lanka terror attacks, compared in terms of media attention?

The timeline below shows the percentage of airtime by day on CNN over the last two months that mentioned “Mueller” or “Sri Lanka” or “Notre Dame,” using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive processed by the GDELT Project. It is assumed that any mention of Sri Lanka or Notre Dame on CNN during this period will refer to the terror attack and cathedral fire, respectively.

Perhaps most strikingly, despite almost 300 killed and several hundred more wounded, the Sri Lankan terror attacks peaked at just 60 percent of the attention the Mueller report received that day. In short, a massive terror attack on Easter Sunday wasn’t enough to fully pry CNN’s focus away from Mueller.

Notably, the Notre Dame fire, in which no civilians were injured, received almost double the attention of the Sri Lankan attack. The Parisian cathedral blaze managed to briefly edge out the Mueller report for a single day, but even it was no match for the media juggernaut that has become the special counsel’s findings.

Looking to Fox News, despite the channel steadily decreasing its Mueller coverage, the Sri Lanka and Notre Dame stories still failed to garner substantial coverage, though the stories were slightly closer to each other.

MSNBC might well be renamed the Mueller Network. Its near-saturation special counsel coverage left it little time to cover the story of hundreds killed and wounded halfway across the world, while even a famous tourist landmark burning in the heart of Paris was of minor importance compared to the latest Mueller developments.

Worldwide online news coverage, as monitored by GDELT across 65 languages, looks very different. Here, mentions of Notre Dame were required to also contain the word “fire” while mentions of Sri Lanka were required to include either “attack” or “terror” or “terrorist” or “terrorists” or “bombing” or “death.”

Notre Dame received the most attention over the same timeline, followed by the Sri Lankan attack. The latter actually received considerably more attention globally than the Mueller report up until April 30.

Finally, looking at U.S. web searches as captured by Google Trends, it is clear that the general public seems to have little interest in the Mueller story. Notre Dame received five times as many searches as Sri Lanka, which in turn received double that of Mueller at its peak. In fact, looking more closely, the public’s relative search interest in the three stories far more closely mirrors online news coverage than that of television news.

Putting this all together, it is not your imagination: The continuing saga of the Mueller report has indeed dominated the airwaves over the past two months. Even hundreds being killed and wounded in an Easter Sunday terror attack wasn’t enough to budge the news channels’ fixation, nor was the burning of a famous landmark. MSNBC’s continued focus on the special counsel investigation is considerably larger than that of CNN and Fox News. Global online media unsurprisingly paid far more attention to the Sri Lanka and Notre Dame stories, though the international impact of the Mueller report is seen in its global attention.

In the end, however, Google Trends reminds us that the public has largely moved on from Mueller, suggesting perhaps it is time for the media to find its next major story.

RealClear Media Fellow Kalev Leetaru is a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber & Homeland Security. His past roles include fellow in residence at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government.

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