Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sarah Palin and Unfairness

Well, Gov. Palin came out swinging this week in just about any direction possible -- Tina Fey, Katie Couric, the John McCain campaign -- no one seemed safe.

She's not entirely without a point. If you saw the media's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election as anything other than a coronation of one candidate who 80-90% of those covering it were "rooting" for, you might have a new job in store -- a professional wrestling referee, because only then could you be trusted not to notice when the Undertaker whacks someone over the head with a chair and the entire arena sees it except for you.

So yes, let's start by admitting that there was rampant bias in the way the candidates, their candidacies, and even their families were portrayed. There was also rampant bias in terms of what was "allowable" or "acceptable" speech about one candidacy versus the other (witness the fact that someone could hang a Sarah Palin effigy in their driveway and have it tacitly accepted).

Got it, now let's move on. Parody and honest but hard-hitting questions have been part of American political life for more than two centuries. Life's not fair, and acknowledging a one-way tilt in the coverage does not mean we should give Palin or McCain carte blanche to complain about every possible interview or spoof.

For instance, was anything truly unfair about asking Gov. Palin about the Bush Doctrine, the bailout plans, or what newspapers she reads? No way!

She is now claiming that things were "spliced" and arranged a certain way to cast her in a bad light, but I challenge you to watch the video below, particularly from 1:06 to the end, and be the judge yourself. Does this really sound like a person ready to lead this country?

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Nick said...

No it doesn't.

A point on the media's bias, though. I certainly grant that it was there--that the majority of reporters were rooting for Obama. But I don't assume it was all ideological.

Obama compelled the press over the course of several years with a highly professional campaign and growing movement of followers. Palin, on the other hand, quickly revealed her deficiencies, in a short and chaotic two months, during which she granted just a handful of interviews. It's not the media's fault that she spit the bit in each of them. Her guardedness left critcs and satirists little actual material to work with, so yea, it was a little harsh.

If the Palins didn't want people to make fun of Todd's snow-machining, they shouldn't have brought it up so much on the campaign. Even McCain talked about it.

If the Palins didn't want people to make fun of Sarah's babbling non-sensical way of answering questions, then she shouldn't have accepted the nomination.

On another note, I think the effigy in the driveway is certainly in poor taste, but you have to admit that some rather nativist and intolerant speech was deemed "allowable" and "acceptable" by the McCain campain and the GOP. (witness the content of some of the robocalls, and the allegations waged by radical groups not refuted by McCain).

C R Krieger said...

OK, I don't know about the robo calls, but I think the thing about the Bush Doctrine shows that Charlie Gibson was a little clueless/one sided (pick one). The "Bush Doctrine" is not one thing, but a couple of things, depending upon when you take the sample. And, as that part of the interview went on, Gov Palin does a very good job talking about Georgia and NATO.

In fact, her answers were in the mainstream and were not different from those held by Senator Obama or published on the Senator's web site. It was like Charlie Gibson thought she was an idiot and treated her as such, questioning her on views that were fully in line with what is broadly accepted US policy.

Sure, she appeared to do poorly on the Katie Couric interview, but with what I saw of the Charlie Gibson interview, she was fine.

And, the argument (I heard this last night on Emily Rooney's "Beat the Press") that the Press didn't "know" Gov Palin before her nomination and they thus had to really press her, to get to know her, is a real cop out. Those who were paying attention knew she was out there and a possible candidate. And, one would think that before the buzz started in early 2008 that real MSM political analysts would have figured out that she was someone who had the magic. Even Chris Matthews noted that point last night on his program on MSNBC.

As for 2012, she is going to have to work hard to overcome the negative image that now exists outside her circle of supporters.

Regards -- Cliff

Matt said...

I completely disagree that the 2008 election was a media coronation of Obama. Not because I don't think many reporters from The New York Times wanted Obama to win, but because it's about time we re-evaluated what our notions of Mainstream Media really is.

Tune in on any day to Rush (whom I like) and Hannity (whom I loathe) and you will hear repeated complaints that the MSM is biased against Palin, Republicans, evangelicals, whatever.

The irony, of course, is that conservatives ARE the MSM.

Just look at the numbers: Rush has nearly twice the weekly listeners as the New York Times has circulation -- in fact, on a good week, Rush outperforms the circulation of The NYT, Time, Newsweek, COMBINED. Fox News has twice the viewership of any cable news network. And the Drudge Report, a website with an admitted pro-Republican bent, is the most popular Internet-based news source in the world.

My point being that the real MSM actually exists by constantly criticizing a liberal media whose power is now more imagined than real. The fact of the matter is if you during this election, you turned on your radio, read the Internet, or watched your news on cable, you were likely to constantly be receiving pro-McCain messages.

Which is fine -- I just think it's time we put aside the notion that there is some uber-powerful liberal media that somehow willed Obama to the presidency.

The New Englander said...


Thanks for your posts...I don't care how many times I've said it, but I think the comments and the back-and-forth they inspire are the best thing about the blog..and this is the first topic in a while that's inspired some reasoned disagreement with both the initial post and some comments, which is like my blogger's pipe dream come true..

The point about how we define the MSM is duly noted, and I'll remember to note that overall commentary on the airwaves tilts right, even if most of the purer news outlets (major newspapers, evening anchors, cable networks) go in the other direction (not to mention the irony that someone with millions of listeners might NOT call himself 'mainstream'!)...Still, if we're looking at the NY Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, big newsweeklies, fluffy stuff like People, etc. it's clear to me that Obama got a lot of fawning media coverage that McCain didn't..

The link below is to a US News article which references a comprehensive election coverage study indicating that for "positive coverage of personal narrative" Obama beat out McCain, 69% to 43%.

Matt said...

Here here to the debate!

Well, I would argue that a growing majority get their news solely from the commentariat, which more than balances out any political advantage the "MSM" gives a Democratic candidate.

I'll also note that U.S. News is a magazine with a decidedly conservative slant.

The truth is for most journalism, it's about ratings. I once berated a friend who worked at Fox News for her organization not giving proper coverage to the Iraq War; she told me that they would love to cover the war -- the problem is, every time they ran in Iraq story (positive or negative), their ratings dropped so much that they ultimately decided it wasn't worth their resources. It's why the "soft" gossip magazines -- People, Us Weekly, etc -- were so fawning over the Obamas: their readership is mostly housewives with young children, and the Obamas highlighted many issues -- working parents, raising children, etc. -- that their readership cared about. Cindy and John McCain simply didn't.

Ultimately, I'm not really sure how much the media affects things on a macro-political level. In my lifetime, the candidate with the "sun in his face" (thank you Chris Matthews) has always won the presidential election -- in an almost even 50-50 party split -- which to me, anyway, dispels the notion of a liberal media somehow keeping the conservatives in their place.

The New Englander said...


..And here here to the ongoing nature of the debate...from the first blog I ever read (Santosh Anagol's which is now password-protected) I always wished more bloggers would respond to comments, because it's like, someone writes something thoughtful, someone responds to it thoughtfully, and then it just dies. That never made sense to me.
So that's why I always comment-to-the-comment, more a way to keep ideas flowing than a way to put a period on the end of the proverbial sentence. So props to you for being (the first, I think) to comment-to-the-comment-to-the-comment.

That all having been said, the matter is a great one for debate. Anytime this comes up again, I'll remember two key points you made -first, the rightish tilt of the commentariat, where many people get their *news*, is a cancelling factor to other outlets with leftish tilts; second, the definition of "MSM" ought to be up for debate. Also, the growth of things like websites, blogs, more cable channels, etc. means more choices as to where we get info, which may be bad, because we may just gravitate towards things which help confirm what we ALREADY think (i.e. conservatives only watching Fox News).

Your point about the friend who worked for Fox reminds me of how a media type once answered me when I asked him why all we get is Monica Lewinsky and Chandra Levy when people keep clamoring for East Timor and Kosovo (hey, this was almost 10 years ago) -- his answer was that (on the whole) people are lying, and the Nielsen boxes show it. As you said, the INSTANT you cut from JonBenet to East Timor, you lose your viewers, period. I guess that's why we get the lost pets of Hurricane Katrina and the top ways to shed those holiday pounds, when maybe we would rather have the Waziristan update.

The bias argument will live to see another day, but I do know this -- I work in an office job doing a lot of research and coordination type stuff with CNN, Fox News, Headline News, MSNBC, etc. on as background/white noise all day long. I also flip between them on the treadmill. There's no question in my mind that story after story on Fox was designed to make viewers like McCain but be skeptical about Obama, whereas CNN and MSNBC were essentially the reverse. The biases may cancel out ratings-wise, but I saw them day after day and eventually just turned on the History Channel instead.

Your debunking of what and what isn't "MSM" is spot-on, and like I said, I'll definitely note that anytime this argument comes up in the future (and trust me, it will -- everything is relative, and where I work I'm a damn lefty!)