Thursday, January 21, 2010

Welcome to My World

I would like to welcome Sarah Palin to the ancient and honorable order of journalism.

I doubt she will accept the invitation, however. Because, despite her new gig as a Fox News commentator, I'm not sure Sarah is quite ready to describe herself as a member of the Fourth Estate.

I don't think we'll see her hanging out at the bar of the local press club anytime soon.

She doesn't have a lot in common with most of us. I mean, she's a former vice presidential candidate who will make big bucks engaging in Fox's legendary "fair and balanced" coverage.

Most of us are a humble but a proud and resourceful lot who are a few thousand notches down on the glamour scale. No Louis Vuitton? No problem.

Sarah operates at a different level. For example, documents obtained by the Politico web site reveal the going rate for the former Alaska governor: $100,000 a speech, with a discount to $75,000 for West Coast appearances.

That's pretty tall corn for a populist politician, not to mention a working stiff reporter.

The last time I was asked to speak was at my kid's school career day. I guess the check is still in the mail.

But, hey, ours is a big tent. So step in Sarah and experience our world.

After all, she has the credentials.

She received her bachelor's degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism from the University of Idaho. Her early ambition was to be a sportscaster. Covering sports is sort oflike journalism, so she passes that test.

She actually worked in the profession, both in television and print, for several years which qualifies her as an ink-stained wretch. Not that I'd ever utter that term to her face.

She left journalism to go into the fishing industry with her husband. Come to think of it, journalism is somewhat like fishing. Every reporter wants to land the big one and sometimes the process stinks.

She's even written a book, "Going Rogue," which as a best seller, even though, like Sarah herself, it received mixed reviews.

The Associated Press challenged some of Palin's statements as non-factual, such as her assertions that she traveled frugally, avoided large campaign donors, was against the bankers' bailouts of 2008, and entered politics for purely altruistic reasons. The analysis concluded by characterizing the book as "a pre-campaign manifesto."

Conservative radio talk show host John Ziegler praised it as "the best book and greatest literary achievement by a political figure in my lifetime..."

But that's the media for you, Sarah. People either hate you or love you, often at the same time. You'll mostly hear from the former.

I guess I would be more comfortable with Journalist Sarah if (1) I was convinced her motives were pure and (2) she didn't always speak ill of her newfound brothers and sisters (in one classic mixed metaphor, she said of the media, "How about, in honor of the American soldier, you quit makin' things up?").

Let's face it, Sarah is more interested in staying on the political radar screen than embarking on a journalism career.

Even though she told CNN that "right now I cannot even imagine running for national office in 2012," she's leaving the door so wide open a moose could walk through it.

I watched her debut on Fox earlier this week. She seemed comfortable enough, considering she considers the media enemy territory. Of course, she appeared with the usually abrasive Bill O'Reilly, who threw her more softballs than next season's Dodger pitching rotation.

She was predictably critical of President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, her critics and anyone to the left of Barry Goldwater.

She espoused the conservative, Tea Party political line that we've come to expect from her.

But I couldn't help wondering what we will hear from Sarah that we can't already hear from the rest of the Fox folks. And if she is running for office, isn't she just preaching to the choir by appearing on Fox?

Perhaps. But Sarah has star power. And a place to display it. I wouldn't count her out yet.

In the meantime, welcome to journalism, Sarah, even if your were just passing through.

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