early and often

First 100 Days: The Media-Overkill Awards

It’s widely recognized in the media that the “First 100 Days” system of measuring the success of a new president is an overrated, largely meaningless metric. But if there’s anything more cliché than the stories about this brief time period, it’s stories about how said stories are meaningless. So instead of trying to make sense of all of this madness (and it is, if you wade into it, madness), we’ve picked our favorite highlights from the rushing tidal wave of “First 100 Days” stories. Who was most skeptical? Who was most enthusiastic? And what did Al Jazeera think?

Earliest Coverage: The big papers and magazines started close to the 90-day mark this year, but we still thought this award would go to Barack Obama himself, as his office has been blogging the first 100 days since day one. But the New York Times’ 100 Days blog actually started before Obama was even president. Tricky!

Best Explanation of the Origin of the 100 Days Metric: In context: Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter, and Time’s Joe Klein (with the help of Doris Kearns Goodwin). Just a history lesson: U.S. NewsFDR history — though it ignores the Napoleonic Ur-narrative.

Most Giddy: “No other American president in modern memory has faced a learning curve as steep as the one Barack Obama has encountered,” Fareed Zakaria gushes in his Newsweek column, “The Secret of His Success.” “In almost every arena, he has pushed the envelope to change policy, not worrying about the inevitable opposition from the right, yet always in a sober and calculating manner.”

Most Skeptical: Al Jazeera, which referred to Obama’s stem-cell and equal-pay initiatives as “low-hanging fruit.”

Most Disdainful American Coverage: The Washington Examiner’s Gene Healy likens our beanpole-in-chief to Napoleon, throws a latte jab, and refers to Obama’s presidency itself as a “power grab.”

Most Disdainful Foreign Coverage: The Telegraph. Sure, go ahead and call us little Americans “besotted” with our president, but don’t claim that his “hope” and “change” campaign was nothing more than a bait-and-switch for overhauling capitalism.

Most Overwhelming: Time.com, for its day-by-day interactive calendar of everything that’s happened since January 20.

Most Succinct: Gawker, who on day 94 already had it narrowed down to two things: 1) Stimulus. 2) Puppy.

Best Slideshow: Time.com’s Behind the Scenes: 100 Photos for 100 Days, a series by Callie Shell.

Most Puritan: TheAtlantic.com, whose first 100 days coverage includes think pieces, a forum, metrics, and even Twitter — but not one picture of a private moment or puppy.

Most Inclusive: The AP’s 100 Days of Michelle piece.

Best Pirate-y Angle: FIRST 100 DAYS: ARRGGH, WHAT A QUANDRY, courtesy of MSNBC.

Most Unnecessary Headline: FIRST 100 DAYSCOVERAGE MAY RESULT IN RECTAL BLEEDING, courtesy of Spencer Green at the Huffington Post.

Most Conspicuous Absence: Where’s Reggie Love?

Most Chilling Alternate 100 Days: Walter Shapiro’s speculative account of the first 100 days of a McCain administration — which starts with a goodwill visit to Vietnam, and goes downhill from there.

First 100 Days: The Media-Overkill Awards