Boy, talk about burying the lead. In its Monday profile of the new liberal talk radio network Air America, the New York Times spent so much time dwelling on the financial woes that have reportedly plagued the start-up company that it wasn't until the 15th paragraph that readers learned this bombshell: Talk radio novice Al Franken's new Air America show beat conservative kingpin Rush Limbaugh in New York City where the two go head-to-head every weekday afternoon from noon to three o'clock. That's according to preliminary Arbitron rating estimates for April.
Heard in New York on WLIB-AM, whose ratings were virtually non-existent prior to switching over to Air America's programming earlier this year, Franken and the rest of Air America's 10 a.m-to-3 p.m lineup grabbed a 3.4 rating among listeners age 25-to-54. By contrast, Limbaugh who has been the most highly rated political talk show host in America for the last decade, and who is heard in New York on talk radio powerhouse WABC, lead the station to just a 3.2 rating. There's more (although the Times forgot to mention it): Among listeners 18-to-34, Franken and WLIB won in a knockout, garnering a 2.9 ratings share compared to WABC's dismal 0.4 showing.
Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."