Utne Blogs > Media

Sarah Palin vs. the Media

by Cally Carswell 


Tags: Media, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin sexism, media bias, Sarah Palin media coverage, RNC, Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Bristol Palin, Bristol Palin media, Politico, Daily Show, Media Circus, Slate, Wall Street Journal,

Sarah PalinIn the wake of John McCain's surprising VP pick, the media's rush to answer the question “Who is Sarah Palin?” was quick and intense.

But when news broke that her 17-year old unwed daughter was pregnant, the scrutiny became both personal and political, sparking intense debate about what’s fair and foul in campaign coverage.

Palin has dominated the headlines of nearly every major news outlet and many minor ones for the last week. You might think the McCain campaign would welcome the spotlight shining on someone other than Barack Obama, but instead, they're outraged. They claim the media's treatment of Palin—which has included stories about her pregnant daughter, questions about her qualifications for the job and the McCain campaign’s vetting process, inquiries into ethics scandals under investigation in Alaska, and examinations of her record—is sexist, liberally biased, and out of line. The campaign is even now refusing to answer further questions about Palin's vetting.

Surely the McCain campaign can't be surprised that voters and reporters want to know more about a woman whose name few outside of Alaska even recognized two weeks ago. But would the questions being asked of Sarah Palin be asked of a male candidate? And has the media gone too far?

Here's a round-up of opinions on the key fronts in the Palin media wars. What's your take?

Palin and John McCain and the Republicans deserve every column inch, every broadcast second of scrutiny they're getting. I believe—unlike Barack Obama—that members of a candidate's family are fair game once a candidate thrusts them onto the public stage—as did Palin when McCain presented her as his pick for vice president in Dayton, Ohio, last Friday. The eagerness with which politicians deploy their children as campaign props stands as an open invitation to the press to write about them. —Jack Shafer at Slate

The spin du jour is that her choice reflects poorly on Candidate McCain because she wasn't properly vetted. Yet this seems to be false. . . . On Monday, Time magazine's Nathan Thornburgh wrote from Wasilla, Alaska, that Bristol Palin's pregnancy had been known by virtually everyone there, with little made of it. But what do these private family matters have to do with Mrs. Palin's credentials to be Vice President in any case?Wall Street Journal, Review & Outlook

They have said this was Bristol’s decision and we should honor that. . . . The reason why I think it’s fair game is Sarah Palin is on record saying she would veto abortions for women even in the event of being raped. So what she is in essence saying: Respect my family’s ability to make this decision and elect me so that I can keep your family from having the same opportunities. —Jon Stewart, September 3, on the Daily Show

What we’re dealing with now, there’s nothing subtle about it. We’re dealing with the assumption that child-rearing is the job of women and not men. Is it sexist? Yes. —Georgetown professor Deborah Tannen, quoted by Politico, responding to questions about whether Palin's maternal responsibilities are compatible with the VP job.

Palin is simply not known. McCain's staff says the press is punishing her because pundits so desperately want to be in the know. But leaking has its benefits, one of which is that her flaws might have been scrutinized and even dismissed ahead of time by the press. —David Folkenflik at Media Circus, NPR

We have asked pathetic questions like: Who is Sarah Palin? What is her record? Where does she stand on the issues? And is she is qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? We have asked mean questions like: How well did John McCain know her before he selected her? How well did his campaign vet her? And was she his first choice? Bad questions. Bad media. Bad. —A sarcastic Roger Simon at Politico

Image by buddhakiwi, licensed under Creative Commons.

angela_1
9/9/2008 4:38:29 PM

I agree with Richard above that the media hasn't been tough enough on Palin and Mccain. It appears that they can say whatever they want and have it repeated by the national media even when it's been demonstrated not to be true. What happened to the idea that people want to hear the truth? People have been so blinded by the Palin myth and Palin's looks, yes I said it, her looks, that they can't see anything else. I lived in Alaska for over a decade and I simply can't believe that the national media are too lazy or too Lower 48 focused that they can't get up to Alaska and check things out on the ground. I saw an ABC report about talking to Palin's best friends in Wassila. Wow! I am completely underwhelmed. When was the last time we saw a report on the opinions of Joe Biden's best friends or Obama's? That hardly counts as news. So what if Republicans complain. I also used to work as a journalist and the editor told me once that if no one complains, you're not doing your job. Need I say more? So, let's get to work, and that includes Utne.


richardkrawiec
9/8/2008 1:07:53 PM

I don't think the media has been anywhere near as dogged as they should be on Sarah Palin. There is much about her background that has gone largely unexamined, from her relationship with a church that believes we're in the last days, to her mutliple incidents of stretching the truth. She won't talk to reporters, won't answer questions - yet she wants to be one heartbeat away from the presidency? As I point out on my blog, http://twoguysspoutingoff.blogspot.com/ she has finally agreed to sit down with a network anchor - after whining she'd only do so if she was treated nicely - and her pick, Charles Gibson, is a kind, gentle man who could not ask a hard question if he were tied down and tortured.


cathy_1
9/8/2008 12:13:25 PM

What I think is unfair about the media coverage is that the information they do publish or broadcast is wrong or incomplete, and it isn't corrected. This campaign has done serious damange to the integrity of the news media. Journalists sound like the scandal mongers of Thomas Jefferson's time. Journalists seem to have turned into middle-schoolers passing gossipy notes in class. The New York Times columnists, for the most part, are just showing off with their snarky comments to one another and their followers in a vast hall of mirrors. If they read the comments to their opinion pieces, they think the world is in agreement with them. They just need to read the comments after the Rangel stories. Whole different picture. In the Kansas City Star just yesterday, Ellen Goodman's column said that Sarah Palin was for abstinence only in sex education, which is totally untrue. I emailed her an article from the Los Angeles Times, since she doesn't seem to do her homework. Although there's no guarantee the LA Times story is true, either. This campaign has made me lose more respect for journalists. It's a sorry crowd of people who no longer want to report but to distort. I'm a journalist,too, and I would have never published some of the garbage that's being written in the NATIONAL media, not just on some blogs. The facts haven't been checked. That's the first rule of journalism. Check everything twice. There should be a motto for journalists such as physicians have: First, Do No Harm. Biden's family hasn't gotten the same scrutiny. There are certainly some issues there, including some suggesting the father should have told his son to abstain from lobbying and getting involved with hedge funds. That's a time for abstinence only! Or you'll give birth to an indictment or a lawsuit. Or at least the smell of conflict of interest. Do I even want to go into Biden's life. Not really. But let's talk ab


andy s
9/8/2008 11:29:19 AM

To answer the question "has the media gone too far with the Palin issues" and about the position the Democrats have taken concerning Palin, I believe you have to ask yourself "how would the Republicans have handled a Democratic candidate who was not well known at all and who had a teenage kid who was pregnant". Looking at how the Republicans are still trying to stamp Obama as a Muslim and how they used not so subtle racist charges in the last election for senator in Tennessee, I believe Republicans would have had a 'Family Values' field day with this situation. It is always interesting to see the shoe on the other foot.