Tuesday, September 9, 2008

After Games Wind Down, So Does Coverage of Issues

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

In the weeks leading up to the Beijing Olympic Games, the excitement of the Games was tempered by news coverage of a number of issues that cast the host city, and China, in a negative light. The traditional relay of the Olympic torch drew protests from people who objected to China’s less-than-stellar human rights record and its relationship with Tibet. There were questions about Beijing’s air quality and its possible effects on the athletes’ health and performance. Coverage of environmental issues peaked with the government’s efforts to clean up the air in Beijing and the enormous algae bloom at the sailing venue. There were also concerns about the government’s efforts to hinder the media in its access to information and its ability to freely report on the events. And, like other recent Games, the Beijing Games were taking place under the specter of performance-enhancing drug use.

Since the Closing Ceremonies, however, coverage of these issues has declined significantly. During the period of August 26 to September 7, there were a total of 3,800 mentions in social and traditional media sources analyzed by Dow Jones Insight of issues relating to human rights, the environment, Tibet, media freedom, athlete health and doping. The most-mentioned issue, human rights, declined from 255 mentions on August 26 to 51 mentions on September 5 (data were analyzed to September 5, since September 6-7 was a weekend, when all coverage tends to be lower). Mentions of China’s relationship with Tibet decreased from 147 to 20 during that period. Mentions of media freedom went from 131 on August 26 to 67 on September 5.

Mentions of the environment declined from 121 on August 26, but spiked back up to 92 on September 1. This increase in coverage was driven by stories about Beijing’s improved air quality. The government’s attempts to improve Beijing’s air quality, including restricting driving based on an odd-even license plate schedule, were so successful that the city’s air quality was the best it had been in about 10 years. These improvements were so successful that some Beijing residents are calling for the driving restrictions to be extended in an effort to keep the air clean. Following coverage of these stories, mentions of the environment declined again to 28 on September 5.

Methodology: Analysis includes the English-language sources taken from a database of 6,000 newspapers, wires, magazines, radio and TV transcripts; about 13,000 current-awareness news sites; 60,000 message boards and about two million blogs.

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