A Suspicious Palin Moratorium

So… Dana Milbank at The Washington Post is calling for February to be a Sarah Palin-free month. Not in the sense you might initially hope—a month in which Sarah Palin herself stayed holed up in Wasilla and out of the public eye—but by himself not reporting on Palin for the entire month. Writes Milbank: “I pledge to you: Sarah Palin’s name will not cross my lips—or my keyboard—for the entire month of February.”

The problem, according to Milbank—and if our comments sections are to be believed, many CJR readers—is that the media can’t get enough of Palin. We have a problem.

The media obsession with Palin began naturally and innocently enough, when the Alaska governor emerged as an electrifying presence on the Republican presidential ticket more than two years ago. But then something unhealthy happened: Though Palin was no longer a candidate, or even a public official, we in the press discovered that the mere mention of her name could vault our stories onto the most-viewed list. Palin, feeding this co-dependency and indulging the news business’s endless desire for conflict, tweeted provocative nuggets that would help us keep her in the public eye—so much so that this former vice presidential candidate gets far more coverage than the actual vice president.

We need help.

We sympathize, and it’s been a particularly painful and Palin-saturated month. Milbank, who says he has written about Palin in forty-two columns since McCain chose her for his VP running mate, calls on others to join him in the month-long moratorium.

I challenge columnists Eugene Robinson (33 Palin mentions), Paul Krugman (14), Kathleen Parker (30) and Maureen Dowd (45) to do the same.

I also call on Keith Olbermann (345 shows mentioning Palin) and Rachel Maddow (183 shows) of MSNBC, as well as Sean Hannity (411 Palin segments) and Bill O’Reilly (664 segments) of Fox News, to take the pledge. Will Politico—with 96 Palin items in the past month alone—join this cause? Will the Huffington Post, which had 19 Palin mentions on a single day last week—stand with me?

And I liked this appeal to our better selves.

Sure, we might lose some Web traffic or TV ratings, but we might also gain something. Remember the “Seinfeld” episode where George Costanza, by giving up sex, suddenly frees up brain power to learn Portuguese and Euclidean geometry, to teach Derek Jeter the physics of batting, to become a “Jeopardy” whiz and to solve a Rubik’s cube? If we stop obsessing over Palin, we might suddenly become experts in the federal budget or Medicare reimbursement rates.

My initial reaction to Milbank’s suggestion? Great idea, Dana! I too shall cease with this Palin nonsense, refusing to comment, link to, or analyze any piece of journalism that mentioned she-who-must-not-be-named. Every Palin profile, every story about her strange ways with the media, every “oh no she didn’t” update on her latest tweets, all would stir zero reaction from this corner. Radio. Silence

Then I thought a little harder.

Let’s say this thing catches on. Let’s say all those big wigs at the Times and the Post and Politico actually do stop talking about Palin. I’m fantasizing, but bear with me… What would then become of all those news consumers desperate for their daily fix of Wasilla madness?

Well, I could be their dealer, so to speak. I could turn the Campaign Desk blog into a 24/7 Palin-palooza, the only source of reputable, intelligent Palin coverage on the web. While those other former sources stubbornly dig their heels in over their self-imposed bans, all that eyeball-grabbing juice would be mine. CJR could be the lone voice to which all Palin addicts would have to turn. For one sweet and delicious month. God knows we need the traffic! I’ve already started. That’s twenty-two “Palin”s in this post alone. Twenty-three.

It all sounded great, until I thought a little harder again.

We might be being duped here. After all, who is to say that after lulling us into our own moratoriums, Milbank himself won’t devote his month of February to all things Palin? With the competition shamed into silence, all those floating clicks, all those searching eyes, could be his. Cunning, ‘tis true. But too cunning for a hard-working D.C. politico?

I don’t know that I would put it past Milbank. After all, one wonders just how many clicks today’s column calling for a moratorium on Palin—headlined, “I’m declaring February a Palin-free month. Join me!”—has nabbed him so far.

We’re on to you, Milbank.


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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor. Tags: , , ,