Richard Adam’s Blog
It’s journalism at its most post-modern: a writer for the Washington Post, concerned at the number of articles he has written about Sarah Palin, writes another article explaining how he’s going to have a month-long moratorium from writing articles about Sarah Palin.
Dana Milbank, a politics columnist for the Washington Post, announced on Friday that he was declaring February to be a Sarah Palin-free zone. After admitting “I can no longer hide the truth. I have a Sarah Palin problem,” Milbank writes:
I hereby pledge that, beginning on Feb 1, 2011, I will not mention Sarah Palin – in print, online or on television – for one month. Furthermore, I call on others in the news media to join me in this pledge of a Palin-free February. With enough support, I believe we may even be able to extend the moratorium beyond one month, but we are up against a powerful compulsion, and we must take this struggle day by day.
Pointing out that the Huffington Post managed to mention Palin in 19 separate articles in a single day last week, Milbank even set up an automated Twitter generator for those joining his self-censorship crusade.
Bravely disregarding the dangers of self-parody, CNN leaped into the fray: “Has the media grown tired of the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee? We asked Ari Melber, a correspondent for The Nation, and Steve Kornacki of Salon.com.”
Milbank was inspired by, yes, another article about how Sarah Palin gets too much coverage, by Ross Douthat in the New York Times. Douthat, a conservative columnist, wrote that Palin and the media were in a toxic, needy relationship:
It’s a grim spectacle on both sides, and last week’s pointless [blood libel] controversy was a particularly low point. So let me play the relationship counselor. To the media: Cover Sarah Palin if you want, but stop acting as if she’s the most important conservative politician in America. Stop pretending that she has a plausible path to the presidency in 2012. (She doesn’t.) Stop suggesting that she’s the front-runner for the Republican nomination. (She isn’t.) And every time you’re tempted to parse her tweets for some secret code or crucial dog whistle, stop and think, this woman has fewer Twitter followers than Ben Stiller, and then go write about something else instead.
After Milbank’s declaration, it wasn’t long before another journalist wrote an article asking: “Will the media follow columnist’s call for Palin moratorium?”
And Slate’s David Weigel, who has been complaining about the Palin-obsessed media longer than most, explains why: “Palin = traffic. Traffic = ads. Ads = paying salaries. Thus, Palin is covered.”
The New York Times’s blogger Nate Silver also explained the huge interest in Palin: people feel more strongly about the former Alaska governor than any other politician in America, including Barack Obama and George Bush.
Indeed, on the front page of Friday’s New York Times is Sarah Palin’s face and a new poll showing that 19% of voters have a favourable opinion and 57% an unfavourable opinion, more combined (76%) than for President Obama (74%).
The Guardian is no better than any other branches of media in its Palintology. I wrote a brief, innocuous piece on Palin mixing up North and South Korea and it got shared a whopping 34,000 times on Facebook (when a typical article is doing well to get 1,000 Facebook shares). Palin has been tagged 1,100 times in Guardian articles, and probably mentioned in many more, all since 2008. (Joe Biden, in contrast, has been tagged just 250 times.)
So when will it end? Palin of course is a contender for the 2012 Republican nomination and isn’t going to fade away anytime soon. But so long as editors and readers are excited by her every tweet and Facebook video, Sarah Palin will be in the “most read” lists for a while yet.