This article tries to link the media’s treatment of Sarah Palin during last year’s election with a general demise of the news media. I’m a bit skeptical of such a broad brush argument, although I do think that the treatment of Governor Palin and her family has been appalling.
I’ve written before on the death spiral of daily newspapers, but I also disagree with the notion that reporters are consciously in the tank for Democrats. I think most reporters are trying to be objective — at least as they understand objectivity — but their primary purpose these days is to come up with stories that sell newspapers, or magazines, in an era when fewer and fewer people get their news through those old-fashioned delivery systems. If selling newspapers means writing about topics that used to be off limits, like a candidate’s sexual activities or those of the candidate’s children, then that is what reporters will do to compete with the internet, bloggers, and 24-hour-a-day cable “news” and commentary shows. The high quality, investigative reporting that wins Pulitzer Prizes takes a lot of time, a lot of research, a lot of legwork, and a lot of sourcing, and the end result may be read only by a handful of subscribers and prize committee judges. How can a boring five-part story about corruption in connection with the award of government contracts compete with a sharp, one-minute on-air rant about whether a politician had an illegitimate affair or looked at the passing rear end of a young woman, or a blog posting on those topics that includes some kind of photoshopped artwork? That is the dilemma for “legitimate” print reporters and their editors, and there is no real solution.