David Carr Admits Media Colleagues Missing Palin's Mass Appeal
David Carr's "Media Equation" column, "How Sarah Became a Brand," gave the Republican vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor her due as a cultural and political phenomenon, while suggesting the mainstream media may have fatally misjudged her and underestimated her staying power.
When Sarah Palin made her debut as the host of "Real American Stories" on Fox News on Thursday night, she described several triumphs of regular people over insurmountable odds, but she missed an obvious one: her own.
After her failed bid for the vice presidency, she was more or less told to head back to Alaska to serve out her term as governor - a kind of metaphorical kitchen.
Instead, she quit her day job and proceeded to become a one-woman national media empire, with the ratings and lucre to show for it.
Carr made some waves in September 2008 with a post after Palin's nomination as vice president during the Republican National Convention, chiding his colleagues in the media for anti-Palin snobbery. He wrote:
Before Gov. Sarah Palin came flying in from the wilds of Alaska for the Republican convention in St. Paul, there was a lot of sniggering in media rooms and satellite trucks about her beauty queen looks and rustic hobbies, and the suggestion that she was better suited to be a calendar model for a local auto body shop than a holder of the second-highest office in the land.
Carr wrote along similar lines on Monday, suggesting that a complacent and biased media has been too easy to dismiss Palin's appeal:
With its tales of uplift and pluck, "Real American Stories" trades in the kind of easy sentimentality that provokes eye rolls among those of us who work in media while quickening the pulse and patriotic ardor of almost everyone else. At the beginning of the show, Ms. Palin promised that it would "reaffirm our pioneering spirit and unmatched generosity, here and around the world."
"It's not the kind of thing that's going to excite you guys on the East Coast, but everyone else is dying to hear stories like these," said one of her representatives who was not authorized to speak on the record but was authorized to slam the East Coast.
Ms. Palin's politics can border on the atavistic, but beyond her Tea Party theatrics, she has tunneled her own route into the public consciousness and gone into the Sarah Palin Across America business. And what a business it is.
Ms. Palin didn't go on the show to run for president as much as to become the next Oprah. And it seems to be working.
So what are the rest of us missing?
Back in September 2008, when she was unveiled in St. Paul during the Republican convention, a longtime political reporter told me that her appeal would burn off over time. I wondered about that. I'm from Minnesota, which is sometimes considered the southernmost tip of Alaska, and her way of speaking in credulous golly-gee may have been off-putting to some, but there is a kind of authenticity there that no image handler could conjure.
Ms. Palin still gets a session in the media spanking machine every time she does anything, but the disapproval seems to further cement the support of her loyalists. Ms. Palin may or may not be qualified to represent America around the world, but she certainly represents vast swaths of the American public and has a lucrative new career to show for it.
If we don't see why, then maybe we deserve the "lamestream media" label she likes to give us.