Reporter Admits SNL Effect on Press Coverage of Hillary

Political media beat reporter Katharine Seelye covered the Saturday Night Live effect in Wednesday's "News Coverage Changes, and So Does Tone of the Campaign."

Seelye pretty much admitted that attention from the comedy show, givenwide playby the Hillary Clinton campaign, actually made a difference among the media - "may have helped flip the coverage as it questioned Mr. Obama more aggressively." Indeed, Hillary Clinton laid her claim to a comeback by easily winning in Ohio and also taking Texas in Tuesday's voting.

It's very hard to imagine a Republican's complaints of unfair press coverage getting such quick results - or anything other than accusations of sour grapes.

Over the last few days, the tone of the Democratic contest seems to have shifted, with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign more buoyant and Senator Barack Obama's more defensive.

That shift may be traceable in part to the "Saturday Night Live" show on Feb. 23, when, back from the writers' strike, it mocked the news media for treating Mr. Obama more gently than it treated Mrs. Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton amplified that view later in a debate, and her aides stoked it all week, practically browbeating reporters.

Now comes evidence that the publicizing by the Clinton campaign and the news media may have helped flip the coverage as it questioned Mr. Obama more aggressively.

Mr. Obama was the subject of 69 percent of all campaign articles last week, from Feb. 25 to March 2, and Mrs. Clinton was the subject of 58 percent of articles about the election, according to a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

"Saturday Night Live" thrust itself into the relative vacuum, portraying the news media as swooning over Mr. Obama and badgering Mrs. Clinton. Her campaign grabbed the pop-culture moment and stoked the idea, even rewarding the show with a surprise appearance by the candidate.

In the last few days, reports suggested that Mr. Obama was on the ropes and that Mrs. Clinton's camp had been reinvigorated. The researchers suggested that the change stemmed at least in part from deeper scrutiny of Mr. Obama as the front-runner and to rethinking by news organizations about whether they had been fair.

At the same time, Mrs. Clinton became more aggressive, beginning to cast doubt on Mr. Obama's readiness to be commander in chief.