If there is one phone number saved into political reporters’ cell phones, at the top of their speed dials, burned into the muscle memory of their collective index finger, it is that of UVA politics professor and director of the Center for Politics Larry Sabato.
Even way back in 1994, The Wall Street Journal called him “probably the most quoted professor in the land.” A former Rhodes Scholar and author of more than 20 books, Sabato is the go-to political expert for a nation of news writers and TV talking heads.
The last time a Washington Post writer quoted Larry Sabato was February 13. Likewise, Sabato’s last appearance in the New York Times happened February 12.
In April 2008 alone, Sabato was quoted in no less than 72 news stories and broadcasts. His quotes appeared in myriad newspapers and websites: U.K.’s the Guardian, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Fox News, the Sacramento Bee, the Hollywood Reporter, The Peninsula (Qatar’s Leading English Daily), USA Today, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, The Voice of America and The Malaysia Star.
But Sabato quotes have shown up less frequently in two of the county’s leading gray ladies: The Washington Post and The New York Times. The last time a Post writer quoted Sabato was February 13. Likewise, Sabato’s last appearance in the Times happened February 12.
The lack of Mr. Ubiquitous from two of the nation’s leading papers may have lead some to wonder, did the Post and the Times place a moratorium on Larry J. Sabato quotes?
“We seek always to have diverse sources in the newspaper,” says Robert McCartney via e-mail, the metro assistant managing editor at The Washington Post, “but there’s no moratorium on quoting Larry Sabato.”
A spokesperson for The New York Times (yes, it has its own press people) did not respond to the question by press time.
So rest easy. No one is shutting Sabato out. Except, perhaps, Ben Tribbett.
Tribbett writes the blog “Not Larry Sabato,” which provides analysis for Virginia political districts. The name, he says, comes from what he sees as the lack of analysis that Sabato gives to reporters.
“He’s always everywhere, but not actually saying anything,” says Tribbett. “It was the kind of thing where 500 people in the state got the joke, and the rest of them said, ‘Oh, that’s such a weird name.’”
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