A number of people at the Project for Excellence in Journalism worked on this report. Associate Director Mark Jurkowitz and Director Tom Rosenstiel wrote the report. The data was compiled by senior researcher Paul Hitlin, senior methodologist Hong Ji and content & training coordinator Mahvish Shahid Khan. Charts were created by manager of the Weekly News Index Tricia Sartor and researcher/coder Steve Adams. Communications and Creative Design Manager Dana Page handled the web and communications. Researcher Nancy Vogt copy-edited the text. Coding of news content was conducted by the people above plus the following researchers: Steve Adams, Monica Anderson, Jeff Beattie, Heather Brown, Kevin Caldwell, Emily Guskin, Jesse Holcomb, Katerine Matsa, Kenny Olmstead, Dana Page, Angela Sanson, Laura Houston Santhanam and Sovini Tan.

The study, The Year in the News 2011, is based primarily on the real-time content analysis data derived from the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s in-house news coding operation.

The data regarding media coverage from traditional news outlets come from a summative analysis of the weekly reports known as PEJ’s News Coverage Index . (Click here for a detailed methodology on how this real-time weekly coding is conducted.) PEJ began the NCI in January 2007, and it is the largest effort in the United States that measures and analyzes the agenda of the American news media on a continuing basis. The Index examines 52 news outlets in real time to determine what is being covered and what is not, who are the leading newsmakers and other elements of the news each week. A team of coders works on the project. Each member of the coding team has been given extensive training in PEJ’s methods and met high standards of reliability. The work is measured regularly for inter-coder reliability and agreement. Coders read, listen-to or watch each piece of news content from newspapers, online news sites, television broadcasts and radio programming.

The data regarding social media, specifically Twitter and blogs, come from the weekly reports known as PEJ’s New Media Index. (Click here for a detailed methodology.) The goal of the NMI is to measure the leading topics of conversation on various social media outlets. PEJ relies on a combination of human coding and tracking services for social media to derive this analysis. The tracking services measure the links present on blog posts or tweets to determine the most discussed issues. When a social media user links to a page online, it suggests that the user believes the page is important, even if they do not agree with the contents. PEJ relies on four social media tracking sites (Tweetmeme, Technorati, Icerocket and Twitteruly) to tabulate the most linked-to pages.

PEJ began the New Media Index in January 2009. In August 2011 we made some changes to the methodology to improve the system. Those adjustments are described in detail here. There were two major changes. First, PEJ expanded the number of tracking sites used from two to four. Second, PEJ expanded the number of sources from which content could originate. Previously, the NMI was focused on “news” stories as determined by tracking sites which were mostly from traditional news outlets such as CNN.com and Washingtonpost.com. However, the current methodology places no such restrictions on where content can originate.

The report also uses survey data from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. In particular, the survey results regarding public interest come from their weekly News Interest Index.