The media love natural disasters, and nowhere is this truer than in the sector where the damage from a flood or earthquake can be shown in all its horror: network television news. Three tragedies — a tsunami in Samoa Islands, an earthquake in Indonesia and a typhoon in the Philippines — collectively accounted for 9.2% of the newshole from Sept. 28-Oct. 4, marking the second-biggest week of natural disaster coverage for the year. These stories were even bigger news on the network newscasts, taking up 15.4% of the airtime studied. Back in 2007, a natural-disaster story became the second-biggest story of the year, as the wildfires in Southern California received more press attention than every news event other than the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.