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Saturday, August 14, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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In World Of TV Punditry, A Chimp Can Do It Better

ALL hail Chippy, the chimpanzee hired by Brill's Content magazine to help measure the accuracy of TV pundits.

Eleanor Clift of the McLaughlin Group and Margaret Carlson and Mark Shields of the Capital Gang bested the banana-eating primate. But John McLaughlin, the loud, quarrelsome host of McLaughlin Group, and George Will, the bow-tie wearing columnist and regular on ABC's "This Week," must be going ape. A monkey could make better predictions than these two about the turn of news events. Indeed, the chimp did - two months in a row.

Though the 4-year-old male chimpanzee from New Jersey does film and TV commercials, he is not a trained political analyst. He may, however, glean insight from fresh newspapers placed in his cage each day.

Brill's Content, a media watchdog magazine, had been monitoring TV prognosticators for six months until it decided to compare experts' predictions to those made by a chimp.

Asked a series of yes or no questions, Chippy replied by nodding or shaking his head. Pundits, naturally, went on in more detail. A score, much like a baseball player's batting average, was determined for each participant.

Batting a respectable .500, Chippy correctly predicted a few months ago that the Russian Duma would confirm Sergei Stepashin as prime minister. The chimp stumbled by saying New York City's commuter tax would not be repealed. Will and McLaughlin scored .333 and .467 respectively - low enough to take some starch out of their shirts.

Chippy also was asked to name the next president. Hunched over a large piece of paper with candidate names scribbled on it, the chimp repeatedly ran his finger across the name of fellow New Jerseyite Bill Bradley.

Sure Bradley is a long shot. But Chippy made his point: Enjoy pundits and their predictions. But never take these babbling uprights too seriously.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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