Project for Excellence in Journalism
After running the numbers for the week of Aug. 22-28, PEJ found that stories about Hurricane Irene comprised 21 percent of all news covered, less than the 26 percent devoted to news about unrest in the Middle East. Network TV news devoted a third of its airtime to the storm, followed slightly by cable news. Online, radio and newspaper coverage lagged significantly. PEJ notes that Irene generated the largest share of the news coverage of any hurricane since it started tracking coverage in January 2007. The closest competitor was Gustav, which was the subject of 17 percent of stories in the first week of September, 2008.

But dominance is relative; Gustav was a distant second to 2008 election coverage. Remember Hurricane Earl? Probably not. It caused little damage, although the media spent a lot of time covering it, too. Coverage of that storm from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, 2010 comprised 13 percent of news hole, but that made it the top story for the week. "If anything," PEJ noted in its report then, "last week’s coverage proved again that meteorology is tricky and the media walk a fine line between legitimate concern and excessive hype in a story of this type." Somewhere there's a story about hype being relative. Oh, here it is: The 6 criteria for hype & why Hurricane Irene coverage does not meet them | Related: Patch gets big traffic bump from Hurricane Irene