As a special report for PEJ’s weekly News Coverage Index (NCI), The Media’s Olympics: How the News Media Have Covered the Games in Beijing is primarily based on the aggregated data collected as part of the NCI from August 3, 2008 through August 17, 2008. This timeframe includes the week leading up to the beginning of the Olympic Games and the first week of competition.

The complete methodology of the NCI is available here.
Examining the news agenda of 48 different outlets in five media sectors, including newspapers, online, network TV, cable TV, and radio, the NCI is designed to provide news consumers, journalists and researchers with hard data about what stories and topics the media are covering, the trajectories of major stories and differences among news platforms.

Following a rotation system outlined below, PEJ monitors 48 different news outlets each week: 34 or 35 outlets each weekday as well as 7 newspapers each Sunday.

  • From that content, PEJ analyzes all stories with a national or international focus that appearing as follows:
  • On the front page of newspapers
  • In the entirety of commercial network evening newscasts
  • During the first 30 minutes of network morning news and all cable programs
  • During a thirty minute segment (rotated daily) of the PBS evening news and NPR’s Morning Edition
  • As one of the top 5 stories on each Web site at the time of capture 

Capture and Retrieval
All outlets included in the weekly index are captured and included in PEJ’s media archive.

For newspapers that are available in print in the Washington, D.C. area, we have hard copies delivered to our office each day. For newspapers that are not available for delivery, digital editions of the paper are retrieved either through the newspaper’s own web site, or through the use of digital delivery services such as and When necessary, the text of article are supplemented by the archives available in the LexisNexis computer database.

Radio programs are captured through online streams of the shows. Using automated software, we record several local affiliates that air the program in various markets throughout the country. The purpose of this method is to ensure that we have a version of the program in case one of the streams is unavailable on a particular day, and so that we record the show in a manner that represents the way a typical listener would hear the program with commercials and newsbreaks.

Online websites are captured manually by a member of PEJ’s staff. The capture time is rotated between 9 am ET and 4 pm ET. The home pages and pages with the top articles for all five sites are saved so that when we reference the material, the format is the same as it appeared online at the time of capture.

Finally, all television shows are recorded digitally and archived for coding purposes. PEJ is a subscriber to DirectTV satellite service and all programs are recorded onto multiple TiVo recording units before being burned onto DVDs for archival purposes.

All television and radio programs are then coded by a member of PEJ’s staff who watches or listens to the archived version of the program.

List of Outlets and Rotation Schedule
The most current list of outlets and rotation schedule is available here.

Story Selection
Stories were considered to be about the Olympic Games if 50% or more of the story was on that topic. If a majority of the story was about the country of China, but not specifically the Olympics, then the story was coded as a story about China. For most data in this report, the stories about the Olympics and China were combined to determine the components of the overall coverage.

Coding Team
The universe of stories was coded by a team, which is made up of 12 trained coders, a coding administrator, and a senior research methodologist. The complete methodology for the weekly NCI has further details on the coding system and coder reliability.

International Coverage
In addition to the data derived from the NCI, PEJ conducted both quantitative and qualitative analyses of Olympic coverage in the most popular papers of Britain, Russia and China. This took place over two days – the 11th and 13th of August. To accurately represent the coverage in Britain and Russia, where strong divisions exist between tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, we collected the top five Olympic stories from the Web sites of the most popular tabloids (The Sun; Komsomolskaya Pravda) and broadsheets (Daily Telegraph and Rossiyskaya Gazeta). In China, where newspapers are divided regionally, we selected the top circulation national paper (People’s Daily) and the second most read paper, the locally-based Yangtse Evening Post. It should be noted that People’s Daily and Rossiyskaya Gazeta are editorially controlled by the Chinese and Russian governments, respectively. Each day, PEJ captured the top five Olympics stories on the homepage of the newspapers selected. In cases where five Olympic articles were not available on the homepage, we moved to the Sports section of the Web site.