Study: Viewers prefer swimming, gymnastics

If coverage of the Olympics often seemed like the Michael Phelps Channel, that’s because it largely was, a study of news reports about the 2008 Summer Games found.

Events that dominated coverage were swimming/diving, track and field and gymnastics. Along with the Phelps phenom, these constituted the four most covered subjects, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which analyzed 390 news stories about China or the Olympic Games during the majority of competition and the week leading up to it.

The PEJ study found that the record-breaking Phelps “was the focus of more than one-quarter of all the stories studied, generating seven times more media attention than the next most covered athlete,” gymnast Nastia Lukin.

“News about swimming and diving was easily the most popular Olympic subject, accounting for nearly 40% of all the coverage in the first week of the games,” study continued. “Gymnastics came next with 11%, while track and field constituted another 10%. No other competition came close to generating that much attention.”

While coverage of China and the Olympics accounted for 14% of all news during the period studied, the U.S. presidential campaign still drew the most attention, with 23% of coverage, the researchers found. The Russia-Georgia war drew 13%.

The study reviewed reports from 48 news outlets in five media sectors, the PEJ said. It also examined websites of popular newspapers in Russia, China and the U.K.

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