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America's Top Pundit

by Maureen O'Donnell Chicago Sun-Times

Bill Maher must think it's politically incorrect. Bill O'Reilly must be spinning in that no-spin zone.

Roger Ebert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, bested them and others to be named the most influential pundit in America by Forbes magazine.

Forbes analyzed market research on more than 60 top pundits in current events, entertainment, law, politics and sports. Ebert "appeals to 70 percent of the demographic and [his] long career makes him well known to well over half the population,'' wrote Forbes' Tom Van Riper.

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The magazine's list of top pundits is "very impressive company,'' Ebert said by e-mail. "It never occurred to me anyone would make such a survey, especially since I never thought of myself as a pundit. . . . Maybe it means movies are more popular than politics, and non-partisan.''

Pundits were rated on awareness and likability by "the demographic gold mine of advertisers -- those between the ages of 25 and 54, with a college degree, making at least $50,000 annually,'' Forbes reported.

Forbes didn't rate personalities like Howard Stern or Jon Stewart because it considers them entertainers.

Ebert is viewed as "intelligent, experienced and articulate," Forbes said. He was asked if he found it a remarkable accolade, given that he is communicating via the written word as he recovers from cancer surgery.

"Despite all my health adventures, I can still see, hear, and type, and now that print reviews are my only way to exercise the full range of my communication abilities, I find I write them with something approaching bliss,'' Ebert said. "I love the paper's new Friday movie section.

"I also loved the TV experience, and it gives me joy, as it would [late TV partner] Gene [Siskel], that our complete archive of TV reviews is now available online. It is also a source of amazement that all 40 years of my Sun-Times reviews are online.

"Actually, despite my difficulties, this is a very good time for me. My wife, Chaz, has been my Rock of Gibraltar, my family and friends are always there, my readers write me, editors and producers help me constantly, and how can I complain? As one of my friends observed, 'Even if you lose your voice, Ebert, you've already talked more than enough.' "

* * *

The survey was conducted for Forbes by the market research group E-Poll. The story is at: http://tinyurl.com/2o674m

The Forbes Top Ten:

Roger Ebert Bill Maher Bill O'Reilly Al Franken Geraldo Rivera Rosie O'Donnell Leonard Maltin Greta Van Susteren Lou Dobbs Bill Walton

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