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Coverage of Political Campaigners: The Palin comparison

This contribution has been submitted to Webdiary by a student in the Online Journalism unit for the Masters in Media Practice and Masters in Publishing courses at The University of Sydney as part of the unit's assessment. The topics covered in the pieces awaiting publication are interesting – and diverse. We hope that Webdiarists will enjoy reading them, as well as giving these aspiring journalists plenty of constructive commentary.

Coverage of Political Campaigners: The Palin comparison
by Victoria Parker

The name Sarah Palin is one that has resonated in Australia within the last month, for all the wrong reasons. Her personal life has been the focus in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian amongst others. I’m very aware of whom Sarah Palin is but if questioned on all of her political views, without thorough research, I’d be a little rusty.

Her policies seem inferior to her personal life in the eyes of the media. Why has Palin been portrayed as a quasi- soap opera? Aren’t her views enough to warrant coverage of this magnitude?

Pictures of Obama’s children are not displayed online like Palin’s and many Australians would struggle to name the Democratic Vice- Presidential Candidate, Joe Biden. (As a Democrat supporter, I’d much rather hear about his policies than Palin’s latest family scandal.)

So why is Palin the topic of choice? Are different expectations placed upon her because she is a woman? Dr. Marc Brennan, Lecturer of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney believes it plays a role in her portrayal, “[I think there’s] a problem in the print media where gender, unfortunately still matters. So, here is this woman who stands for all sorts of things but first and foremost she’s a woman, so they start to talk about her children”.

Surely times have changed though? It pains me to think that the portrayal of women is stuck in the dark ages. She has something to say, so let’s hear it. There has been coverage on her ‘electrifying’ acceptance speech in various publications but overall the Australian coverage has been predominantly superficial.

However, since the announcement of her VP candidacy she has been pictured with her children and her husband on nearly every occasion. Is she contriving press attention of this nature? Dr. John Hart, Lecturer of Politics and Government at the Australian National University, says that reportage of Palin’s life is pivotal in McCain’s campaign. “The fact that [her daughter’s] going to have the baby and marry the husband was considered to be a plus not a minus. That kind of media attention is priceless” he says referring to the views of Conservatives Republicans. It’s vital to remember that this is the reason that McCain chose Palin, for the “redneck” vote.

Palin has become a “celebrity” hence this salacious news appearing in the media. “It’s about… what the journalists think the readers want,” Brennan says. The ‘cult of celebrity’ is so powerful in contemporary media that no-one is safe. As Charles Krauthammer explained in The Seattle Times on September 14th, the media emphasis has now moved from Obama to Palin.

It seems that the media dig-up everything they can and Palin is a journalist’s Holy Grail. As Hart states, “she has got this celebrity status and it clearly has paid off...you would have to say that whatever the reason for McCain’s selection, it’s doing quite well for him.”

The views of this woman should not be hidden beneath the gossip. We need to be more informed. It is important to understand that she could be the Vice-President of America in November and the impact this will have on Australians as one of their strongest allies. The press needs to stop generating these fluff pieces and start printing some real news.


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Well, the  Catherine Devenny article in the Age today is the final word as far as I'm concerned.

Basically, that people question Palin and her bona fides, given her Hansonist lack of cooperation with the media during this serious US election  case, let general ineptnes when she iscornered into an attempt at a relevant answer on something like theBush Doctrine not because she is a woman, but because she is a dolt.

And  Devenny would have far heavier duty feminist cred than some of the lumps at the Murdoch pres who have tried to give their republican mates a favour.

They are rich claiming feminism for Palin; the ultimate anti-feminist.

And as far as I'm concerned, after what these did to Bill and Hillary Clinton back in the nineties , they have an utter cheek claiming hard doneby, as to adverse (eg not fawning) media coverage.

...Hello? Hillary Clinton?

I refuse to believe that the media attention to Palin’s personal life has much to do withthe fact she’s a woman. I don’t know about you all, but I saw and heard muchmore about Hillary Clinton’s political life than her personal one – indicativeof the fact that Hillary actually had something interesting to say.

If Palin does too, and just isn’t ‘being heard’, then don't you think right now is prime time to speakup?



Curse of the unknown... and gender

I think the unwanted media attention Palin is getting is because she is relatively unknown and of course a woman, like you mentioned in your story.

Unfortunately, the media write stories that people are "likely" to read, like her family scandals... (to be honest, I feel that even The Australian and SMH are becoming very tabloid!

I enjoyed reading your story, I thought it was a refreshing look at journalism practises with regards to gender and politics. Perhaps insight into why there has been so little coverage on Joe Biden could give us more perspective on things?

McMoron won't let her speak

McMoron and his super rich neocon cronies won't let her talk but we do know her policies.

She loves drill, drill, drill and drill some more.

Wants polar bears off the endangered species list, voted against the abolition of the slaughter of wolves, loved that bridge to nowhere and she used her own kids in the most despicable way, Victoria.

No use blaming the media if all they report is the fluff about Palin - most of the media is owned by Murdoch who votes repugnicon.

Go Marylin.

G'day Marilyn,you are unique my dear. I have come to the conclusion that I want to read everything you contribute.

Why?  There is always compassion and a strong sense of justice.

What a pi  ty that we have to argue those subjects.

Cheers Ern G.

The ultimate illusion

Roger Fedyk "She should have said a firm "No" to McCain's offer".


It's not as if Obama has any more experience. Actually, he has a lot less. He won't even front up to non-scripted town hall meetings. No autocue you see.

Sarah Palin even has more in common with Australia than Obama. She comes from a mineral rich state, and a state that deals with Australia's largest company at that.

Nobody here as of yet has offered one concrete thing Obama has to offer. Not one. Apart from Oprah likes him, that is.

In only Palin had someone to oppose her

"The press needs to stop generating these fluff pieces and start printing some real news."

Now, there's an opportunity for Palin's opponents. Will they confront her with genuine issues? Or will they hose her with hysterical personal abuse and gratuitous insults, generating the very 'fluff pieces' to be lapped up eagerly by 'the media'?

Have a guess.

Driven By The Media On Party Tracks

Eliot my guess is that neither political party has the courage to to be driven by real debate.

Perhaps there was a time when the electors wanted substance (but I doubt it).

There was a wonderful piece in today's media reports about Palin's "no you can't come in, oops, yes you can" backflip on media presence during her discussions with a couple of world leaders.

The kicker was the expressed hope by Palin's Republican minders that she would gather some expertise. So there you have, a few minutes with Kharzai and someone else and she's a foreign policy expert. I'm not blaming the women exactly, she's smart enought to know that it is a charade. However, I question her "quiet voice". If she believes that she's ready for the big stage as compared to ,say, Hillary then her judgement is way off.

She should have said a firm "No" to McCain's offer. That would have shown some true leadership. Then again, what the hell do we expect from the land where all issues are dealt with in an hour on Okra, Dr Dill, Jerry Sphincter and The Phew.

The choice is easy

Roger Fedyk "Victoria as you rightly point out Sarah Palin may have policies and we are not getting a chance to hear them".

One major policy is a shift away from energy dependence - something they've been hammering in Alaska (one of the richest states) for decades. A shift back into America actually making things again. A move away from the financial tax haven states (such as Bidens), and back into the can do hard work ethic (middle America) that has made America the most powerful nation on earth.

These things come about by doing not talking. These things are made possible by doers not talkers. Obama simply holding out the dream of a new protectionist era is offering nothing but cruel fantasy. There's nothing Obama offers that Sarah Palin doesn't trump him on. Nothing at all.

They'll all want the photo op

The demonic representation of Sarah Palin is as much a figment of collective imaginations as is the saviour representation of Obama.

Any person that rates over 80% in their home state (the most popular Governor in America) has something to offer. It's also not a person that should be underestimated. Dems should listen to Bill Clinton (a rare Democrat in that he could actually win something). In simple terms: the rabble scaring themselves into a frenzy isn't going to help in defeating this lady.

Told you so

Marilyn Shepherd: "I think "it's the economy stupid" is what has swallowed the stupid woman whole as she doesn't have a clue and nor does McMoron."

See my comment of September 12, "It's the economy, stupid"

Told you so


Palin: I'd willingly prise her weapon from her cold fingers

I think that the American habit of shooting Presidents is something that should be encouraged.


I agree

Her views and repugnance are becoming so well known that her popularity dropped from 56% to 35% in one short week and she is hardly ever seen now.

I think "it's the economy stupid" is what has swallowed the stupid woman whole as she doesn't have a clue and nor does McMoron.

Scary Palin

I think she's the Anti Christ. McCain should hire a food taster.

No Comment Might Be A Good Start

Victoria as you rightly point out Sarah Palin may have policies and we are not getting a chance to hear them.

However, with no emphasis on gender or family status or any other aspect of her life apart from experience it is clear that she comes up woefully short.

Her opinions on any aspect of international relations or finance are worth little (nothing actually, as I doubt the Ben Benanke is consulting with her). If experience does not matter then let me run the government of Australia or put me in charge of the Reserve Bank or let me operate on someone's brain.

This situation is bizarre, however, it is an indicator of who actually runs the world (and it's not politicians). We have had 8 years of President Buffoon (thanks for absolutely nothing) and now we may get 4 years of Veep Hockey Mom. This is an April Fool's Day joke gone past its use-by date , right?

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