Larry Elder

Lawyers call this a "declaration against interest."

Washington Post ombudsperson Deborah Howell wrote a column in her own newspaper comparing the paper's front-page coverage of Democratic nominee Barack Obama with that of Republican nominee John McCain.

Her findings? Examining stories from June 4, when Obama became the presumptive nominee, until Aug. 15, the Post ran 142 political stories about Obama, compared with 96 about McCain. As to front-page stories, Obama was 35 to McCain's 13.

What about photographs? The Post ran, during this time, 143 pics of Obama versus 100 of McCain.

The paper's assistant managing editor for politics explained the discrepancy this way: "We make our own decisions about what we consider newsworthy. We are not garment workers measuring our product every day to fulfill somebody's quota." In other words, Obama makes good copy, and this is, after all, a business. Fair enough. (But what's he got against garment workers?)

But why, then -- when the Post's Howell pointed out the discrepancy in photographs -- did the disparity disappear over the next two weeks? Howell writes that since she first pointed out the lopsided nature of the photo coverage: "Editors have run almost the same number of photos -- 21 of Obama and 22 of McCain -- since they realized the disparity. McCain is almost even with Obama in Page 1 photos -- 10 to 9."

Wait a sec. If the Post assumed that photographs of Obama drive sales, then what happened? The likely explanation is that the Post considers itself a "news" organization, and was embarrassed when one of its own columnists revealed its blatant partisanship.

As for Obama's popularity -- the basis for printing more stories about Obama -- take a look at the recent polls. A Reuters/Zogby poll, for example, gives McCain a 5-point lead among likely voters, with most of the major pollsters considering the race a dead heat. Does this not make McCain and Obama at least equally good copy?

But many of these same people who defend the Post's right to make a profit also demand the reimposition of the so-called Fairness Doctrine -- to force radio station programmers to "balance" popular conservative hosts with liberal ones. But "fairness" proponents show no concern when avowed Bush-haters, such as NBC/MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, put on their "journalist" hats and "cover" primaries, debates and political conventions.

How bad is it?


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.

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