Sarah Palin rarely "makes news"

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz suggests Sarah Palin has some magical ability to conjure "news" out of thin air:

As a potential candidate, Palin has done nothing to show that she's boned up on the issues that often tripped her up in 2008. As an emerging media star, she's played her cards just right. She makes news with a couple of paragraphs on her Facebook page. Can Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney say the same?

Another way of looking at that would be: The media gives Palin priceless free publicity for doing things that get ignored when other politicians do them. What "cards" has she "played," exactly?

Sarah Palin doesn't really "make news." (Well, she does occasionally, like when she abruptly resign her post as Governor of Alaska.) More often, she is given attention by reporters when she does the utterly mundane. Those are two very different things. (Likewise, politicians don't' "grab headlines" -- journalists write headlines.)

Take this Palin Facebook post. There is absolutely no news value in it; it's just a jumble of cliches and sports/war/politics metaphors so poorly-executed you have to consider the possibility that it is a parody -- and yet Howard Kurtz quotes it.

Kurtz's formulation -- that Palin "makes news" via some strange alchemy that the likes of Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney are incapable of -- absolves journalists of any responsibility for the decisions they make to grant Palin coverage when she does little to deserve it. That would, perhaps, be unsurprising coming from a political reporter -- but Howard Kurtz is supposed to be a media critic. It would be nice if he would consider the media's role in acting as Palin's pro bono publicists, rather than peddling the myth that Palin's rambling Facebook posts are some canny news-making strategy.

The Washington Post
Howard Kurtz, Sarah Palin
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