Wolf Blitzer leaps to the aid of ‘Times’ reporter Jeff Zeleny against Santorum; plus, Tim Tebow meets the press

In today's Lineup, Rick Santorum lashes out. ()
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The Lineup collects the media stories, big and small, that are on our radar each day.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer came to the defense of New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny yesterday after Zeleny became a part of the story he has been covering.

A heated exchange between Zeleny and Rick Santorum that was caught on video the previous day was still reverberating in the campaign-news echo chamber.

At a campaign stop, Zeleny had asked Santorum to clarify his recent remarks about Mitt Romney being "the worst Republican in the country."

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Then Santorum's fangs came out. He chewed Zeleny out, telling the reporter he was distorting the candidate's words ("It's bullshit," said Santorum), before turning the whole episode into an attack on the Times, which his campaign painted as being in the tank for the "liberal" agenda of Romney and Obama.

The issue is that Santorum says his "worst Republican" remark was made in the context of the health-care debate.

But as Blitzer pointed out on "The Situation Room" yesterday afternoon: "You did say that one line, he is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama. ... but you didn't say, 'on this issue.'"

After venting about mainstream media "spin," Santorum told Blitzer: "Any good conservative who hasn't had a flare-up with The New York Times isn't worth his self."

"But you know Jeff Zeleny. He's a very solid reporter," Blitzer replied.

"I don't know Jeff Zeleny."

"He's a very serious political reporter," said Blizter. "He's not like, a hack. ... He's been covering you for a long time."

You can watch the full interview below:

Meanwhile, overall coverage of Santorum has been skewing more positive lately.

Santorum last week enjoyed "his best week of coverage since mid-February," according to the latest election news analysis by Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

"Santorum's coverage improved last week to 43% positive, 26% negative  and 30% neutral, his best differential (17 points) since February 13-19, following his wins in the Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri contests. In the two weeks from March 5-18, Santorum's coverage was a nearly even mix between positive and negative."

[Hat tip: Jim Romenesko]

In other news...

The latest on The New York Times' union negotiations. [Jim Romenesko]

Times excutive editor Jill Abramson defends the paper's recent Iran-Israel coverage. [Politico/Dylan Byers]

With the Trayvon Martin case, Al Sharpton is straddling cable news and activism. [A.P.]

Tim Tebow meets the New York media. [The Daily]

Why Helen Thomas won't be getting her own table at this year's White House Correspondents Association Dinner. [The Huffington Post]

Longtime Daily News editor Robert Sapio has left the paper. [The New York Observer]

After a protracted legal battle, Gothamist finally got its NYPD press credentials. [Gothamist]

The Guardian's U.S. site has brought in 4 million new readers. [journalism.co.uk]

Atlantic Media has partnered with Mashable on tech content. [The Wrap]

The luxury magazine market is getting crowded again. [W.W.D.]