Saturday, November 1, 2008

How the TV Networks Have Portrayed Sarah Palin as Dunce or Demon

By Colleen Raezler and Brian Fitzpatrick, Culture and Media Institute


"ABC, NBC and CBS news shows are covering Palin intensively, and they are running 18 negative stories for every positive one.

Network coverage of Palin has moved beyond criticism to outright ridicule. Strikingly, all three networks have repeatedly aired clips of Palin being parodied by a comedy show, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, leading to concerns that many Americans are confusing the real Palin with SNL’s figure of fun. When have comic impressions of a political figure ever qualified as hard news?

We found that ABC, NBC and CBS have been stridently critical of Palin. Before the debate, the networks characterized her as a dunce whose shortcomings were dividing the GOP. After Palin laid to rest concerns about her competence by performing well in the debate, the network narrative changed: Palin became a demon, victimizing Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama with unfair criticism.

Major findings:

* Major network news shows ran 69 stories about Sarah Palin between September 29 and October 12. 37 stories were negative, just 2 were positive, and 30 were neutral. Not a single evening news show ran a positive story about Palin.
* Overall, 21 network stories portrayed Palin as unintelligent and unqualified. 8 of these stories played a total of 11 clips of Saturday Night Live ridiculing Palin. 14 segments featured the most embarrassing clips from Palin’s interview with Katie Couric.
* 9 stories emphasized attacks on Palin by conservative columnists.
* 14 stories demonized Palin as little more than John McCain’s attack dog.
* ABC was hardest on Palin, with 9 negative stories (60%), 6 neutral (40%) and no positive stories. NBC ran 15 negative stories (54%), 13 neutral (46%) and no positive stories. CBS ran 14 negative stories (54%), 10 neutral (38%) and 2 positive (8%).

Network coverage of Sarah Palin has been so distorted and out of balance that the public cannot trust what they’re hearing from ABC, NBC and CBS about the GOP vice-presidential nominee. The networks have been so intent on assassinating Palin’s character that they have turned for added ammunition to sources they normally ignore – conservative columnists and comedians.

Sarah Palin’s nomination changed the presidential race, creating a real threat to the media’s preferred candidate, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. ABC, NBC and CBS have rallied to Obama’s defense by working hard to bring Palin down. "

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