Take a look at this video of Robin Roberts interviewing Sarah Palin for a "Good Morning America" segment that aired Friday.
I think it offers a good sense of a very bad development online and in the TV press lately of some elements of the mainstream media trying to kiss up to Sarah Palin -- perhaps because she drives ratings and page-view counts.
Pay attention to the part in which Palin tries to attack screenwriter Aaron Sorkin for his devastating critique of her TLC reality series, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," as a "snuff film" for the way in which it features a caribou being shot and killed on-camera by the former governor of Alaska. Palin's remarks are disingenuous and flat-out dishonest. She distorts what Sorkin wrote and she accuses him of celebrating gun violence and human death in films and TV series he writes and produces.
But then, she says she doesn't know who he is. She acts like she thinks his name is "Alan." And Roberts gives her an absolutely free ride to play her lying games. That goes beyond doing a soft interview. You can read Sorkin's deft takedown of Palin and her exploitative series here.
But click forward after seeing the video to read an even better example of the way some outlets are trying to make nice with Palin -- this one from Thursday's Politico website.
The piece that really made me notice the direction some coverage of Palin was taking, though, was published Thursday at Politico. Read it here. That part that absolutely floored me was the author referring to her TLC reality series as "quirkily endearing." That might seem like a small thing, but it suggests the basic tone of the Politico piece.
Which part of bludgeoning a fish to death with a club or shooting that caribou would be quirky and which would be endearing?
I am not talking here about the already-reported pattern of Palin starting to make herself available to mainstream media outlets beyond Fox News, which pays big money for her words and time. Nor is this post isn't about thenature of the image-building media blitz she is currently on.
No, it's about a deeper and more complicated matter we don't much discuss in the media these days -- the way the potential for page views can drive not just what gets covered, but the way it gets covered, as some media outlets compromise themselves to get access to certain figures whom they know will drive traffic.
I wish we would have an honest and open discussion about this, because it is one of the largest and least acknowledged dangers facing journalism today. And most of us in the media critic business are ignoring it, perhaps because it cuts too close to home.
It is one thing to go soft on singer or actor who can generate web traffic for you. But it's another matter when it involves someone who could presumably be running for president of the United States in a few months.
Both are wrong, but the latter could be profoundly dangerous to our democracy.