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Most followed story of Kennedy's death; thought coverage was excessive

By Will Lestern, Associated Press, 07/27/99

WASHINGTON -- About four out of five Americans followed the news of the deaths of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and sister-in-law, and more than half of the public thought the media coverage was excessive, new polls indicate.

The polls, by the Gallup Organization and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, illustrate the mixed public message about tragedies involving celebrities.

"The public tunes in because they want news," said Bob Giles, executive director of the Freedom Forum's Media Studies Center. "But part of the reaction is because the 24-hour news channels and the main networks ... kept that story on even when there was nothing new to report."

News of the plane crash that killed Kennedy, his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette was followed closely by 54 percent of the public, according to the Pew poll, while 29 percent followed it fairly closely.

This year, only the school shootings in Littleton, Colo., drew more attention, as 68 percent of the public followed the news closely, and 24 percent followed it fairly closely.

Women were more likely than men to pay close attention to the Kennedy news, according to the polls. Among age groups, older citizens, 60 and older, showed the most interest.

In the Gallup poll, almost six out of 10 thought coverage of the Kennedy crash was excessive, while people were evenly divided almost two years ago on whether the coverage of the death of Princess Diana was excessive.

The Pew telephone poll of 753 adults was taken Friday through Monday, and the Gallup poll of 1,021 adults was taken Thursday through Sunday. Both polls have error margins of plus or minus 4 percentage points.


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