IF AN ELECTION FALLS IN A FOREST…. I hardly ever rely on television for news, but I’d foolishly assumed the cable networks would be all over the developments in Iran. Indeed, it never occurred to me to think otherwise.

And why not? It’s a story with huge implications for the United States and the world. It has controversy, violence, fascinating personalities, alleged corruption — all elements that news networks tend to love. The question, I thought, wasn’t whether CNN and others would be covering the developments in Iran extensively; the question was whether they’d even break for commercials.

So much for that idea.

Politico‘s Ben Smith had an item at 9:41 p.m. (eastern) last night:

I’m not always a Twitter evangelist, but there is just a whole lot more there right now on the riveting Iran story than there is in a shockingly vacant night on American television. (On CNN right now: A re-run of Larry King’s interview with the people behind “American Chopper.”)

I thought Ben was kidding about the “American Chopper” interview. He wasn’t. Robert Farley had this item at 9:28 p.m.

So, I’m trying to find out something about what’s going on in Iran, and on CNN I can watch a rerun of Larry King interviewing several gentlemen without shirtsleeves who apparently assemble choppers. On Fox Mike Huckabee is trying to explain why Jesus hates credit card relief. MSNBC is rerunning something about a prison in New Mexico. CNBC is evaluating whether college students should be able to afford Chanel tote bags.

Media fail.

One of Andrew Sullivan’s readers wrote in with this piece about his/her frustrations yesterday.

I turned on CNN, and they were going three rounds about some idiot Republican operative in South Carolina who called Michelle Obama an ape. Nothing on Iran.

MSNBC was in the middle of one of its hour-long crime documentaries.

FNC was showing a pre-taped piece on Bernie Madoff.

In contrast, note that print reporters (newspapers, wire services, magazines, and center-left blogs) had fantastic coverage of Iranian developments throughout the day and night. I’ve found the New York Times’ coverage to be especially strong.

The wrong part of the media industry is in trouble.

Update: Nico Pitney had a very sharp item last night, noting that while the networks, most notably CNN and MSNBC, aired some excellent reports on Iran, when it comes to the “quantity of reporting, U.S. networks do seem to be far behind other international networks.” Nico backed this up with specific numbers, pulled together from TVEyes.com.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.