‘Passion’ is a news obsession

Study sez press mostly neutral towards pic

NEW YORK — The obsession over “The Passion of the Christ” extends well beyond the box office: According to a new study, the country’s top 10 newspapers couldn’t churn out copy fast enough on the subject.

The Marquette U. College of Communications survey, which studied the 10 newspapers with the widest U.S. circulation, was designed to assess the tone of the coverage as much as the quantity. Marquette is based in Milwaukee.

Among the papers, the New York Times published the most stories on the film (63), followed by the Los Angeles Times (58); USA Today published 45 stories, and the Washington Post 24.

Stories included reviews, editorials, news stories, features and letters to the editor and were published between Jan. 1 and March 20.

Among news stories, 54.4% were neutral, 34.2% were positive and 14.4% negative. Among editorials, an even number were negative or neutral (43.3%), while 13.3% were positive. Among features, 67.7% were neutral, 23.4% were negative and 14.9% positive.

It was the film’s religious theme — not anti-Semitic undertones or violence — that was the predominant issue running through the articles (56.6%). Pic’s violence was touched upon in 40.2% of the stories, while anti-Semitic issues were discussed in 50.1%.

Marquette will release an additional survey in May looking at coverage of “The Passion” by regional newspapers.

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