Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pressing Issues: A Whiter Shade of Palin Shifts Views

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pressing Issues: A Whiter Shade of Palin Shifts Views

Article excerpt

It tries to stay ahead of the political curve -- remember last spring when a skit painted reporters as pro-Obama, sparking a brief media love-fest for Hillary Clinton? -- but this time Saturday Night Live was a bit behind the times. In mid-September, the now-famous skit starring returnee Tina Fey as Sarah Palin closed with an especially cutting quip that came from Amy Poehler as Hillary. She advised journalists, clearly referring to the early swooning over Palin, to "grow a pair," and if they couldn't, they ought to borrow a pair from her.

But by then it was clear that, in the main, the media had cojones enough to go around.

One would like to think that the determination to vet a previously little-known vice-presidential candidate from an atypical, faraway state would have happened even if Palin and others in the McCain camp hadn't dissed the media at the Republican convention and in the days that followed.

Forget the Red/Blue civil war: This was "black and white and Red all over it." The McCain forces were saying, "investigate, my friends, but we do not care what you find, and neither do the American people." It's long been said, "you can't lose by running against the media." Well, I guess we will soon find out about that one.

The early returns suggested, on the contrary, that baiting the media may have backfired for the GOP. McCain, at least for a spell, lost his comfortable lead over Obama, gained during his "bump" from the Palin pick (before the media detective work began). Palin's favorable ratings in some polls had plunged more than 20 percentage points in that span. Numerous headlines stated something along the lines of "Palin Effect Wearing Thin." The lipstick was off the pit bull.

By the time you read this, McCain may have rebounded and Palin stopped falling. But the September evidence provided support for my long-held belief, perhaps delusional, that most Americans actually respect serious journalism more than the polls indicate. Their disgust covers a broad range of aspects -- from perceived bias to the excesses of celebrity coverage -- all lumped into one "distrust the media" rubric, but actually they do respect genuine journalistic enterprise.

As my contribution to the Palin vetting over at E&P Online -- starting just hours after she was tapped to join the ticket -- I started excerpting from, and linking to, articles and opinion emerging from the leading Alaska newspapers in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau and in Palin's hometown of Wasilla, the media outlets that knew her best. …

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