Why Is “NO-PRAH” News?

There are sins of commission and sins of omission. Oprah’s Sin of Omission: not having Gov. Sarah Palin on her show. Oprah confessed — er, announced — as much on Friday.

Setting aside questions like, So, did Palin ask to be on the show and Oprah turned her down (No.) What of Ellen? Or Dave? Haven’t they similarly sinned? (Apparently). Or even, Huh? What I want to know as I see MSNBC on-screen headlines today like “No Palin on Oprah” and “Oprah Says NO-PRAH to Palin” is: Why Is “NO-PRAH” news? (Relatedly: Why would Oprah, out of nowhere, announce that someone is not going to be a guest on her show?)

In a word: Drudge.

Typically, for better or worse, something not happening is not news. When the something not happening is teased by Drudge (complete with juicy bits from anonymous insiders)? News.

Not that those reporting this “news” are likely to tell you that (another sin of omission).

MSNBC’s Tamron Hall today:

Oprah Winfrey says she would love to have Sarah Palin on her talk show, after November 4th. The media mogul supporting Barack Obama for president announced she will not be having Sarah Palin on her show before election day. And that stance has the Florida Federation of Republican Women calling for a boycott of Oprah’s show and her O magazine. The president of the Florida Federation of Republican Women joins us now….

“The media mogul… announced she will not be having Sarah Palin on her show” and she made this announcement apropos of nothing, out of the blue… nothing to do with some exclamation-laden “developing”“report” on Drudge about Oprah’s “staff divided.”

“NO-PRAH” even made Meet the Press yesterday, with moderator Tom Brokaw literally pointing to the New York Post
(headline: “NO-PRAH!”), a story that also doesn’t mention Drudge, just “reports,” but does dub this yet another election ‘08 “snub”. Brokaw asked Joe Biden whether “some will see that [Oprah’s announcement that she won’t have Palin on her show before election day] as an elitist position that, in some way, Democrats may be afraid of her, Sarah Palin?” As Media Matters notes, Brokaw did more than pass along the Drudge-stoked “news” without copping to its Drudge origins (Drorigins?), Brokaw also said, “Oprah did come out for Barack Obama, she did have him on the show,” without adding that Oprah had Obama on the show before he became a presidential candidate.

So many sins of omission. Not to mention the things we aren’t talking about because we’re too busy talking about who isn’t going to be talking on which talk show…

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.