How Much Kennedy Was Covered





There was no doubt that Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts had died if anyone listened to NPR in the days after his death late on Aug. 25 from brain cancer. Between Aug. 26 and 30, NPR ran 53 stories.

Before Kennedy even died, NPR had 7 in-depth stories already prepared, according to David Sweeney, NPR's managing editor. "From shortly after he was diagnosed with brain cancer, we worked up a list of stories both for the air and online," said Sweeney. "We also worked to produce a couple of obits that would reflect his life, in all its aspects."

Media saturation on the Kennedy story was not unique to NPR. A report released Tuesday by the Project on Excellence in Journalism noted that Kennedy's death was the No.1 story last week. "Indeed, his passing generated more coverage than that of any other political or celebrity since the PEJ News Coverage Index began in January 2007," said the report.

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, Morning Edition ran 6 stories on Kennedy -- covering 34 minutes. To put that in perspective, Morning Edition produces 1 hour and 14-minutes of editorial content each day after newscasts, breaks and funders are taken out.

Tell Me More devoted 19 minutes to Kennedy. Talk of the Nation devoted 48 minutes to an NPR special on remembering Kennedy. By late that afternoon, half the stories (45 minutes) on All Things Considered related to Kennedy's passing. Total programming time across two hours of ATC, excluding newscasts, breaks, funders, is approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes...

... Some listeners were unhappy with what they perceive as hagiography while downplaying the darker chapters in Kennedy's life.

"In your story on Ted Kennedy your reports vacillate between naming the young woman in the Chappaquiddick accident and just calling her a 'young campaign aid.'" She had a name and her name should always be used," wrote Laurel Barton, of Seattle. "It was Mary Jo Kopechne. It is disrespectful and degrading to refer to her as just a 'young campaign aid.'"

Michael Whitaker of Beaufort, SC added, "I work at a chemical plant in Savannah and mention of Ted Kennedy's passing brought up nothing but negative comments, particularly about his murder of Mary Jo Kopechne and how he was able to cover it up. I'd like to hear more from her family."

More complete coverage of Kennedy's foibles appeared on Talk of the Nation on Aug. 26. The now-famous island was mentioned 10 times in a 48-minute segment that more fully explored what happened at Chappaquiddick



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