NEW YORK -- He's no longer running for president, but Herman Cain will finish 2011 having racked up more national media coverage than any other Republican candidate, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Cain's unorthodox candidacy had everything the media could ask for: wacky, viral ads, foreign policy stumbles ideal for the cable news loop, impromptu singing at the National Press Club, and of course, several allegations of sexual harassment followed by claims of a 13-year affair. Cain's likely to continue to get airtime in 2012 and may have a future at Fox News.
Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the media focused more on Cain's gaffes and damage control than, say, on substantive foreign policy issues, given that 2010's most-covered candidate was Christine O'Donnell. But Cain even ranked highly looking beyond the political horse race, clocking in third among all newsmakers, behind only Barack Obama and Muammar Gaddafi, according to The Year in News 2011 study . For this year's report, PEJ analyzed nearly 46,000 stories from 52 traditional news outlets across five platforms: newspapers, magazines, broadcast television, cable news, and talk radio.
The 2012 election was the third biggest story of the year, with actual candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich -- along with media-hyped, would-be candidates Donald Trump and Sarah Palin -- all among the top 20 newsmakers. Ron Paul, who didn't make the cut, fared much better on Twitter than in the national media. And outside of the 2012 race, the top political newsmakers were Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, House Speaker John Boehner, and scandal-plagued ex-New York Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Overall, the U.S. economy ranked as the top story of 2011, just as it did the previous year. Middle East unrest can in second, with the 2012 election, Japan's earthquake and tsunami and the killing of Osama bin Laden rounding out the top five. There was a significant spike in international news from 2010, with five of the top 10 stories this year occurring overseas.
CNN, which has a larger global footprint and a sibling in CNN International, devoted 34 percent of its coverage to "international events and matters that concerned U.S involvement abroad," according to the study. That's more than Fox News (20 percent) and MSNBC (14 percent). In fact, CNN's biggest story of the year was the Middle East uprisings, which ranked third on Fox News and MSNBC.