Not surprisingly, network bigs haven’t been quiet about CNN’s march on their turf. It seems a day doesn’t pass that a Big Three executive doesn’t publicly criticize CNN for some facet of its coverage or try to play down CNN’s wall-to-wall coverage of the war.

“All this heavy rationalizing in the media by the networks is just drawing public attention to their own inadequacy,” says Bruce Northcott, president of the media consulting company Frank N. Magid Associates. “Our research shows that the public perceives no difference in the quality of CNN and the news departments of the other networks, whether they are better or not.

“Viewer choices are made on perceptions, not realities,” says Northcott. “This is a society of convenience and CNN is a network of convenience. Only one of the four networks covering this war will come out a winner. It’s not a pretty picture, unless you’re at CNN.”

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