The WashPost still needs to clean up its Limbaugh ratings mess

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Yesterday I raised doubts about the claim in a Howard Kurtz article that Limbaugh's ratings have "nearly doubled" since January. The Post offered no hard evidence to back that up. And as I noted, even Limbaugh himself suggested he has no idea what his ratings are since he first announced in late January that he wanted Obama to fail.

Today, the Post's Paul Farhi writes more about Limbaugh's ratings in an article that only raises more doubts about Kurtz's claim that the talker's numbers have increased two-fold since January.

Specifically, I noted that it's basically impossible for reporters to get solid information about nationwide ratings for syndicated talk show hosts since those numbers are not released publicly.

Farhi confirms my point:

Arbitron, the radio industry's dominant audience-measurement company, has never publicly released a national estimate for Limbaugh, and it says, in effect, that the job is too complicated, expensive and time-consuming to bother with..."There is no economic motivation for any objective third party to do that kind of analysis," says Thom Mocarsky, an Arbitron spokesman.

I also pointed out that even within the world of syndicated talk radio, there aren't any internal, nationwide numbers about Limbaugh's most recent ratings. Meaning, not even Limbaugh's syndicator, Premier Radio, knows if his ratings have doubled since January.

Again, Farhi confirms my point:

What's more, Premiere's figure is based on data from the first three months of 2008, a virtual lifetime ago in the fast-moving radio business.

Bottom line: If the Post has any tangible proof to back up its Friday claim that Limbaugh's ratings have nearly doubled since January, it ought to print it.

UPDATE: In his Friday piece, Kurtz quoted Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers magazine, who suggested Limbaugh's ratings had doubled recently. In today's Post article, here's how Harrison explains coming to that conclusion:

"It's what we're hearing, based on the e-mails, the calls, all the buzz this controversy is generating. We put a little bit of our interpretation on it, added it all up, and that puts you in the ballpark."

That's the information the Post used to announced that Limbaugh's ratings had doubled? Please.

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