Monday, November 24, 2008

Sarah Palin and Gotcha Reporting

There has been a buzz the last couple of days because Sarah Palin did an interview at a turkey farm. During the interview, someone in the background slaughtered a couple of turkeys. This is being reported as yet another example of Palin's cluelessness. It is not. It is an example of "gotcha" reporting.

If you are interested, there is a link to the video here. This was no accident. The cameraman deliberately filmed this. You can tell this because of an important detail in the video - the framing. The camera is off to Palin's side. This could be because there are other cameras but Palin is off-center. If the camera had centered on her then the guy killing the turkey would have been cut off. What is more, during interviews the camera often drifts around a bit as the speaker moves. You would expect the turkeys to move in and out of frame. This doesn't happen.

So a cameraman realized that he was shooting compromising footage of Palin. He didn't try to minimize it or warn the governor that this was happening. Instead he shot it then notified the networks. MSNBC showed it as "breaking news". Would they have even covered Palin's interview otherwise? Of course not.

Equally noticeable is how this is presented. "She didn't notice what was happening behind her." What an idiot! Everyone else has eyes in the back of their head.

Palin first got a reputation as an airhead when Katie Couric asked her to name some Supreme Court cases that she disagreed with. This sounds reasonable until you think about it. Unless you are a constitutional scholar you think of the result of Supreme Court opinions, not the names. The names are seldom even reported. I'm sure that Couric knew this. Asking that question meant that Palin responses were likely to either be, "The one about property rights," and sound like an idiot or to simply draw a blank and sound like an idiot.

Notice that no one asked Barack Obama this question, even though he taught constitutional law. Instead he got an infinitely easier question about the justices themselves.

A reporter did the same thing to George Bush in 2000 - he was asked to name the presidents of several governments. When he could not it was reported that he was unprepared for international affairs. I saw one columnist who specialized in international affairs who admitted that he couldn't answer the questions, either.

This is one way that bias affects reporters. They will ask candidates that they want defeated questions that seem reasonable but are not. If the candidate fails to answer the question then other reporters quickly tell the world.

On the other hand, if their favored candidate says something like that there are 57 states then they make allowances and the story never escapes the blogosphere.

1 comment:

ChetHayes said...

Christopher Guest could not have made a mockumentary better than Turkeygate. The images of Sarah Palin standing there with her sippy cup, yammering away banalities in her screechy cheerleader voice while turkeys are slaughtered behind her was just too funny. I look forward to even more inanity from that stupid woman.