If you were to write an article about how the three cable news networks are covering a story, would you address the one with the highest ratings first, or the also-ran?
At the Washington Post, the answer is "the also-ran."
On Tuesday, in a piece about how political pundits are "overpopulating the news networks," staff writer Paul Farhi first highlighted what was going on at third-place MSNBC, and even gave Keith Olbermann the first crack at commenting on the matter (emphasis added throughout):
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann says that when he introduces his network's lineup of analysts and commentators on primary and caucus nights these days, it conjures up the long-winded introductions on an old variety show. "I am reminded of the way 'Hee Haw' opened," Olbermann says. "I am sorely tempted to finish [the list] with 'Joe Scarborough, Rachel Maddow, Gene Robinson and Pat Buchanan -- Grandpa Jones! . . . Junior Samples! . . . the Hager Twins!' "
Not to mention the rest of MSNBC's prime-time punditocracy -- the Buck Owenses and Minnie Pearls, as it were: Tucker Carlson! Chuck Todd! Howard Fineman! Richard Wolffe!
After a brief interlude, the worst to first coverage continued:
During the week of Super Tuesday, 75 percent of available airtime on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News was dedicated to dissecting the campaign, according to the Washington-based, nonprofit Project for Excellence in Journalism. That was more than 10 times the amount the cable news networks spent on the next most heavily reported story that week: the tornadoes in the Midwest and Southeast (the war in Iraq didn't make the top five).
Almost like doing an article about this Sunday's Daytona 500, and spending all your time talking about Tony Stewart instead of Ryan Newman, dontcha think?
Alas, this bizarre transposition wasn't done yet:
"We're devoting as much coverage to the primaries as the networks gave to NASA in the 1960s, only we're covering two or three moon shots a week," says Olbermann, who on Super Tuesday co-hosted the coverage with Chris Matthews for eight straight hours.
Add it all up, and in the first seven paragraphs, MSNBC was the focus of four of them, with Olbermann actually being quoted twice.
In fact, he would be quoted two additional times in the piece; not one person from ratings leader Fox News was quoted.
In reality, this article was more about MSNBC's coverage than anything else, for out of the 31 total paragraphs, eleven addressed that network or one of its representatives. By contrast, CNN was mentioned or alluded to nine times.
Meanwhile, ratings leader Fox News came up only four times.
To top this off, MSNBC representatives were quoted six times in this piece; once again, not one quote from ratings leader Fox News.
It's almost like Ryan Newman didn't win the Daytona 500 at all, isn't it?