Bristol Palin’s Pregnancy
I was interested in analyzing the way in which three news sources approached the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s daughter.
I discovered an article written for the New York Post. The headline caught my attention because it said “Palin Admits Her 17-Year-Old Daughter is Pregnant.” The use of the word “admits” implies that Palin was trying to hide this information in the first place. This article also used several quotations from the father of Bristol’s baby. The majority of them came from his MySpace page and used vulgar language. In my opinion, the editors of the New York Post tried to appeal to a crowd that is hungry for trashy gossip involving the pregnancy.
CNN.com had a different approach to the story. Unlike the New York Post, the site did not give specific information about the father of the baby. Instead, the focus was on how the presidential candidates felt that Palin’s family life should not be an issue in the election. This article was much more respectful. The only detail it gave involving Bristol Palin was a sentence stating her year in school and telling how far along she was in her pregnancy. CNN is a news source for the masses and not necessarily directed toward a specific group of people. Perhaps this is why the editors approached the story in a more general and factual manner.
Finally, a political blog on washingtonpost.com described the ways in which the pregnancy might have an effect on the campaign. The blog discussed how different political groups would view the pregnancy. The writer focused especially on how social conservatives would respond to the information. Because The Washington Post is held in such high regard for its political news, it isn’t surprising that the editors took this approach. Readers who turn to this paper are probably less interested in gossip and more interested in the turnout of the election this November.
From gossip, to basic information, to effects on the campaign, the articles that I found involving the pregnancy had completely different content. I wonder if there is an article that contains all of the information that I read in these three sources.
The day after Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention many newspapers ran a story about the event; however, each paper covered the speech differently. While some of the coverage within the story was similar, the content of each paper varied. My focus was on the front pages of The New York Times, the USA Today and the Lincoln Journal Star.
Graphically, each paper had a different look to display their coverage of the speech delivered by Gov. Sarah Palin. The New York Times placed the story above the fold, with a picture of the vice presidential candidate, her family and Sen. John McCain. This article appeared next to two other international articles concerning Georgia and Pakistan. The article focused on the decision Sen. John McCain made when he chose Gov. Palin. This decision was controversial, but many people seem to be optimistic about the choice. The front page also has stories concentrated on the vice presidential candidate. One discussed the content of her speech, and the other discussed the challenges of governing Alaska. The layout of the front page was well designed. The articles are all concentrated on the previous night’s speech, or they placed this candidate in a historical context. The New York Times viewed the story from a national perspective.
The USA Today used a photograph from the convention; however, this photo did not include Sarah Palin. The USA Today tried to focus on how the Republican Party is rallying around the vice presidential candidate. The headline is optimistic, and shows the Republican Party’s confidence in Gov. Sarah Palin. This article contained quotes from her speech where she contrasted her work in a small town to Barak Obama’s earlier work. Also, the USA Today ran a story about what John McCain needs to do to win this election. The USA Today covered the speech, but put this story in the context of the entire election. The USA Today tried to show how each party views the experience of Gov. Sarah Palin.
The Lincoln Journal Star was the only paper to run a picture of Sarah Palin at the convention. I think this was the best visual representation of the previous night’s event. To accompany this picture, the Lincoln Journal Star ran an Associated Press story about the contents of that speech. Like the USA Today, the Lincoln Journal Star had a story depicting the Republican Party as confident in their candidate. Also above the fold, the newspaper ran a story about the possibilities of a new arena. This is a local story that accompanies the nationally known convention. The Lincoln Journal Star used a more local perspective to accommodate a local audience.
While each paper felt the story was important enough to appear above the fold and with a picture, the coverage was not identical. Each paper made its own decisions about how to cover the story that was appropriate to its audience.
The ethics investigation Sarah Palin is facing in her home state of Alaska is one of the more surprising and significant revelations to come out about the governor since she was named the Republican candidate for vice president. Despite the potential implications the case could have for her legally, and as a reflection of her style of governing, the story has received varying degrees of coverage depending on which news source you look at.
On August 29, the day the story broke, MSNBC.com ran a fairly long story that covered the specifics of the investigation and what lead to it. The story has a lot of details, including a mention that the incidents that might have caused Palin to develop a grudge against Mike Wooten, her former brother-in-law who’s still a state trooper, happened before she was elected as governor. The story also includes quotes from a taped conversation between a member of Palin’s administration and the public safety commissioner she fired, which show that members of the governor’s office may have pressured him to fire Wooten.
The same day, CNN.com also published a shorter story about the ethics investigation. CNN’s story covered all the basics of the investigation, but didn’t go into as much detail about exactly what was happening. It mentioned the taped conversation from the MSNBC story, but didn’t quote it, and included less of Palin’s reaction to the investigation. Despite the slimmer coverage the day the story broke, CNN has done a better job of covering new developments in the investigation. They’ve published numerous stories updating where the investigation is at, and even did an interview with Wooten to get his side of the story.
The New York Times website also published a story on the Palin investigation on August 29 that was somewhere in between the CNN and MSNBC stories in terms of length and coverage. The New York Times story was the only one to include a comment from the McCain campaign, and information about the Palin family hiring a private investigator to investigate Wooten and report back to them. The New York Times didn’t do as thorough a job of following up on their initial story as CNN did, but like MSNBC it did manage to cover most of the important developments with it’s follow ups.
I examined three different news outlets’ reactions to Sarah Palin’s convention speech the day after it was given: The New York Times, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal.
The New York Times article was headlined “Palin Assails Critics and Electrifies Party,” and the article reflected that headline well. The entire article focuses exclusively on the attacks by Palin against the Obama-Biden ticket. The article also focused on how the speech seemed to bring together a previously disorganized Republican ticket, and the end of the article told us about how McCain “assailed” news outlets that suggested Palin didn’t have more leadership experience than Obama.
CNN also focused on the combative aspects of Palin’s speech: their headline was “Palin comes out throwing punches”. However, they also ran a few comments from Joe Biden and Senator Obama in response to the things Palin said. Doing so, I think they made themselves seem less enamored with how Palin’s speech was presented, and more concerned with the actual content, which was arguably questionable. In all, I think CNN did a much better job focusing on the actual issues that are part of this election, instead of retreading the same “horse-race” “he said-she said” attitude that much of the media seems to take when covering elections. Needless to say, I preferred this approach from CNN.
The Wall Street Journal’s headline was less combative than the other two. It read “Gov. Palin Makes Her Case”. The Journal chose to focus on how much of a gamble Palin is for the McCain campaign, pointing out that the pick has become the center of intense scrutiny and controversy, which in some ways shadows the actual speech. The article also focused more on Palin’s experience, and how being mayor of a small town has “given her a feel for real Americans.”
Overall, I liked CNN’s coverage the best. They seemed more like they were getting to the actual meat and content of the speech, and they gave the Democratic ticket a chance to respond, which I thought was only fair.
I was intrigued at how many news sources chose to focus on Sarah Palin’s ability to be both a mom and a politician. I’m not a feminist by any means, but I find the coverage a bit sexist. Male candidates that are fathers do not seem to be a topic of deliberation.
Wed, September10, 2008
Headline: “Palin Hits The Motherload”
In the column, a colleague’s thoughts are mentioned. “Is she prepared for the all-consuming nature of the job?” … “When the phone rings at three in the morning and one of her children is really sick, what choice will she make?”
I realize this is a column and opinions are allowed. However, I still maintain that this would not have been written about a male candidate.
2:29 p.m. EDT, Mon September 8, 2008
Headline: “Is Sarah Palin being held to an unfair standard?
The first line of the article reads, “Sarah Palin: politician and mother. iReporters weigh in on the difficulty of balancing those two roles.”
CNN has a less direct headline, yet still asserts the issue of a standard. The article looks at the fact that she is facing a double standard. However, the article’s lead brings up her ability to balance roles in life. This is an unlikely lead for an article about a male politician.
MSNBC- First Read
Monday, September 8, 2008 9:08 AM
Headline: “Palin: Fusing Politics and Motherhood”
The article examines various news sources and their coverage of Palin, but the headline suggests otherwise.
I looked at the headlines the day after Palin’s speech at the RNC (Sept. 4). The three papers I looked at were the Anchorage Daily News, the New York Times and the Lincoln Journal Star.
The Anchorage Daily News, Palin’s hometown, covered the entire front page with the story of her speech, including a picture of Palin that took up almost the entire area above the fold. The headline said “Palin Electrifies GOP” and took a magazine style approach, covering the rest of the front page with two more pictures and a little bit of text. Definitely not your conventional front page, but it’s almost expected since it’s her hometown paper, and Alaska doesn’t exactly make national news on a regular basis.
The New York Times, obviously a more nationally-scoped paper, ran the story above the fold and was the main headline, but it didn’t receive nearly the attention that the Anchorage Daily News gave it. The headline says “On Center Stage, Palin Electrifies Covention” but there really wasn’t a story corresponding to the photo, which was her giving her speech. The stories on the front page dealt more with McCain that it did Palin.
And finally, the Lincoln Journal Star, which is neither a national nor a paper with significant local interest in Palin, covered nearly 2/3 of the front page with Palin coverage, including a large headline that read “Palin Comes Out Swinging” and two articles that dealt directly with Palin and her speech. This isn’t all that surprising – there wasn’t much going on locally and Nebraska is traditionally a Republican state.
Last week, as the Republican National Convention was in full swing, all newspaper eyes were on Republican vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin. And depending on the newspaper and the location, each news source had slightly different coverage. We can look, for example, at how the Lincoln Journal Star, the New York Times and the Anchorage Daily News each covered Palin during this past week.
On Thursday, September 4, the day after Palin’s speech at the convention, the Journal Star ran a fairly large picture coupled with two Palin-related stories, which took up about two-thirds of the page in all. The headline said in bold black letters, “Palin Comes Out Swinging.” The first story, which was above the fold, was predominately about her speech, while the story beneath had a local spin, giving the reactions of Nebraska GOP leaders to Palin. For a fairly conservative Midwest city, such as Lincoln, I thought this size and level of coverage was logical. While Palin’s speech itself was an important piece of news, the Journal Star created more appeal by running a story with local ties as well. The headline also created interest with the reader, and made them want to read more of the story.
The New York Times from the same day chose to cover the event similarly in some ways, but entirely different in others. A headline of, “Palin Assails Critics and Electrifies Party,” and a picture of Palin onstage at the convention were both printed above the fold. The story, while definitely featured, didn’t take up nearly as much of the page as it had for the Journal Star. Once again, for this newspaper, I think their coverage was a wise choice. The New York Times has a much larger circulation and is a national newspaper, and therefore must cover a lot more news than the Journal Star. As a result, not as much space on the front page was devoted to Palin’s speech and there was no need for a second story with local ties.
The Friday, September 5 online coverage of Palin in the Anchorage Daily News had a very different feel than either of the previous two. The headline, “Governor becomes overnight sensation,” was paired with a picture of Palin being served ice cream at an ice cream store. Being Palin’s hometown newspaper, I wasn’t surprised to see that the article couldn’t find enough nice things to write about their local celebrity, saying such things as, “Gov. Sarah Palin gave a speech that made her a rock star on the right,” and mentioning the Alaska delegates’ overwhelming approval for her. The picture choice also made sense, because it gave her the more down-home feel that Alaskans would expect from her. The article also gave no mention of Palin’s daughter, Bristol, and her pregnancy, as both of the previous two had (although briefly). All of these elements made for logical coverage in Palin’s home state.
Omaha World Herald: Questions Remain about Palin Vetting
Journal Star: McCain says Palin Thoroughly Checked
Star Tribune: Top Alaska Republicans not consulted before Palin selection
All three stories dealt with the vetting process. Each of the stories discusses at length the idea that McCain “surprised” the nation with his choice. All three headlines come off in an almost accusatory tone. They sound like they are challenging the idea that Palin claims to be ready. None of the articles are overly zealous but it certainly seems that even several days later the media is still playing the “Who is she? What can she do? How did she get here?” angle. Not necessarily a bad angle, especially when they find interesting things. I was amazed how much the media can dig up when it comes to their own vetting process. It makes you wonder if there is such a thing as a personal life for candidates or public officials.
I, like much of the media world, have chosen to cover the topic of Sarah Palin’s 17 year-old daughter’s pregnancy. Palin stated in a press release September 1, 2008 that her daughter was five months pregnant in efforts to dismiss rumors that Palin’s youngest child was instead her daughter’s. I chose to examine the news coverage of three media outlets: CNN.com, the Omaha World Herald, and The Washington Post. I believe that of the three outlets I covered, CNN covered the issue in the most respectable, appropriate manner.
The CNN.com article was simply titled “Palin’s teen daughter is pregnant”. The article started out with a three-sentence lead that gave just the facts. The author then went into details about how much the McCain administration knew previous to their announcement of Palin as their Vice Presidential candidate. There were only three sentences in their entire story that gave specifics about the daughter, her pregnancy, and the daughter’s husband-to-be. CNN chose to focus on how the McCain campaign was handling the situation and why they would choose a candidate with so many red flags. The story was obviously more focused on Palin than on her daughter. The author made sure the story was unbiased by reporting on interviews from a Republican campaign adviser as well as Obama, himself.
The Omaha World Herald had a very short article when compared to the other two outlets. The nine paragraph story was entitled “McCain campaign defends Palin check”. I think the headline makes it sounds as if Palin (and the Republican Party) has something they need to be defensive about. The story remarked that McCain’s team sent twelve operatives and lawyers to Alaska shortly after Palin released the information about her daughter. They concluded that the twelve member team was sent to find any more information that may hurt the campaign. This article did not point the finger at Palin’s daughter but at the Republican Party as a whole. It seemed to mock the McCain’s choice calling their previous research on vice presidential candidates “sloppy.”
The last article that I will review was written by The Washington Post and is titled “No Surprised From Palin, McCain Team Says”. This article was quite long and covered many details about Bristol Palin. The reporter even had the audacity to go to the home of the husband-to-be, whom they named as Levi Johnston. I think this reporter went too far. The husband-to-be is only 17. Although, I don’t think the pregnancy should be covered with more than a 2 sentence blurb in an article, I think the Palin family should expect some scrutiny. The Johnston family, however, should be left alone. They should not be cast into the public spotlight in the same manner as the Palins. The story ended on a relatively snooty way. The last two paragraphs were about the youngest child, Trig, who was born with Down syndrome last April. The story remarked on how Palin did not announce the pregnancy until early March and showed no signs before that time. It ended by saying that she gave birth and was back at work three days later. The phrasing, I felt, seemed to imply that she was lying about actually being the child’s mother.
Although I think the pregnancy topic should be left alone at this point, I think the editor of CNN made the best decision to report specifically the facts. The other two seemed to spread gossip and led to conclusions. If the facts themselves don’t lead the readers to these conclusions, then they should not be made.
Examining the Palin coverage.
I examined the coverage of Sarah Palin’s experience, and I chose to use a broadcast, online, and newspaper source to look at. I used the New York Times, CNN online, and ABC News.
ABC News used a positive angle in examining her experience. They did it in a piece examining her story overall. They related her personal history and then examined her political history highlighting the important and pertinent things she has accomplished. They did not mention any gaps in her experience. The whole piece was very kind to her.
The New York Times had two articles on September 4 highlighting her experience. One focused on her speech, what she said about her experience and what the democratic ticket said about her experience. It also mentioned her attacks on Obama for his lack of experience. It included many of the criticisms and comments between the two tickets, a very different approach than the ABC News segment. However, the Times also another piece that day focusing on her accomplishments and the unusual challenges she faced governing Alaska. This article was very similar to the ABC coverage. It had a positive angle on her experience.
CNN online had very little information on her experience. There was one article which covered her speech and mentioned her experience and what she said about it, but that was one on only two. The other was an article examining Biden’s comments on her speech and his criticisms of her lack of experience. There were no articles that I found even up through yesterday where Palin’s experience was really examined, either with a positive or negative angle.
I preferred the coverage by the New York Times. I am a news-editorial major, so this comes as no shock, but I feel as if they were the most objective. They included the negatives but also the positives. They also covered what the candidates were saying about each other, but they included more as well. They did their own reporting on her experience and brought forward a lot of new information.
Differing News Coverage of Palin’s Pregnant Daughter
After Sarah Palin announced that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was pregnant, three major online news sites took different approaches in presenting the story. I read the first-published articles from CNN.com, MSNBC.com and FoxNews.com.
The CNN.com article led with the pregnancy issue, but also mentioned in the lead Palin’s hiring of a lawyer due to the investigation of her firing of a public safety commissioner in Alaska. The pregnancy was not mentioned again until the fourth paragraph. This split focus was unique, as the other two stories concentrated on the pregnant daughter. Neither the editors at MSNBC or Fox News mentioned Palin’s hiring of a lawyer in their articles. For the most part, the CNN.com article emphasized the positive, that Bristol will keep the baby and marry the father.
MSNBC.com led its story off by addressing the Internet rumors circulating that Palin’s youngest son was actually Bristol’s son. The CNN.com story did not reference these rumors until more than halfway through the article. Like CNN, MSNBC ended its online story with a series of positive quotes defending Palin as a mother and supporting Bristol’s decision to keep the baby.
FoxNews.com also mentioned the Internet rumors near the top of the article, but it took a slightly different approach at the end of the story. Instead of ending with supportive comments for Palin’s daughter, the article said, “But the Palin family travails don’t stop at Bristol Palin’s pregnancy.” The article then referenced Todd Palin’s DUI in 1986. The article noted that Todd and Sarah Palin were dating at the time of the incident.
I think the editors at Fox News and MSNBC both made good decisions to mention the Internet rumors near the top of their stories. One of the first questions a reader would ask is, “why is Palin announcing this now?” The other key editorial decision was how Fox News chose to end its story. Personally, I think it’s irrelevant to bring up Todd Palin’s DUI in this article. Comparing an unwed pregnancy to a DUI from 22 years ago seems like a stretch. If a journalist wanted to, he or she could dig up dirt from every politician’s past, and especially from a politician’s family member’s past. I don’t see a need for that in this story.
Palin: GOP’s homecoming queen?
StarTribune.com–The Palin effect: Rock-star status (Sept. 9, 2008)
DallasNews.com–Palin has Dallas County GOP swooning (Sept. 10, 2008)
FoxNews.com–Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP’s Newest Star (July 11, 2007)
The first article focuses on how Palin’s popularity has skyrocketed and how that is threatening Obama’s campaign.
The article from The Dallas Morning News makes a point of saying that Palin is the “hottest candidate on any ticket.”
The third article, from Fox News, is actually from summer 2007. I had never even heard of Palin before she joined McCain’s ticket, so I was surprised when I read that as of July 2007, “she is now the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating in the 90s, and probably the most popular public official in any state.”
All three articles portray the candidate in a positive light, but do they go overboard? The bias in choice of language in all three articles is what interests me most. “Star,” “Swooning,” and “Rock Star” must create a romanticized view of who Palin truly is for those reading the stories.
The Anchorage Daily News devoted most of its front page today to various things about Sarah Palin, but surprisingly, not all the coverage was positive. The lead story criticized the way Gov. Palin has allegedly been using state funding to furnish meals for her family. Another story, featuring a huge photo, details a few upcoming events – some pro-Palin and some in protest of her nomination – coinciding with Palin’s return to Alaska for the first time since she was nominated.
The Los Angeles Times used the same photo (showing Palin supporters with signs resembling “Rosie the Riveter” World War II propaganda), but it accompanies a story about Obama and McCain’s approval ratings after each candidate’s respective party convention. Both the story and the photo are above the fold.
The Miami Herald makes no mention whatsoever of Gov. Palin, instead covering events that are much more timely and relevant to the city of Miami (a new stadium for the Marlins, and Hurricane Ike’s devastation of nearby Cuba).
I’m not surprised that Palin got front-page play in her home state, but I was surprised to see her Page 1 in other places (like Los Angeles). I didn’t think there were any new stories emerging, so I thought other stories would get precedence for the front page (like Miami).
I looked at how 3 publications covered the news that Palin had used Alaskan taxpayers’ money for nights she spent at her home:
The Washington Post: “Palin Billed State for Nights Spent at Home”
This ran on the newspaper’s front page, which makes sense as The Washington Post’s audience is D.C. residents, a chunk of who are politicians. It also took up 3 pages on the newspaper’s Web site, which is fairly long for a news story. Even though the story was on the front page of the print edition, it was not on the Washington Post Web site’s home page.
Lincoln Journal Star: “Report: Palin tapped travel allowance at home”
The Lincoln newspaper just used an Associated Press story for its coverage. While The Washington Post was quite in depth with its story, the AP story just summed up the basics of the news, leaving out any sort of background information on who Palin is. The Journal Star chose to only run the story online, and didn’t even run a brief on it in the paper version.
Anchorage Daily News: “State paid per diem while Palin stayed in Wasilla home”
In Palin’s hometown paper, the news was the top story (above the fold) and was the top story on its Web site. It makes sense that the Alaska newspaper is playing the story so big, seeing as it is directly affecting their citizens (its their money that supposedly paid for Palin to stay at her own home).
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Coverage on Palin Coverage
September 8, 2008 by ryanboetel
I selected three news stories about how Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate for president, has been covered by the media. The articles try to focus on answering the question, has the media been sexist when covering Palin? And, what impact will this coverage have on the election.
On abcnews.com, an article written on September 3, summarizes an interview Cindy McCain did with “Good Morning America.” The article relies almost entirely on what McCain had said when she was on the ABC morning news show. Because there was no attempt to bring in outside sources to either confirm or deny McCain’s opinions, they come off as nothing more than propaganda.
Another article I chose was from the Los Angles Times. Unlike the story on ABC news, this story used a wider variety of sources that made the article more in depth. For the story, Matea Gold, the LA Times reporter who wrote the story, interviewed the presidents of all major television news outlets, Fox, CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS and asked them if they thought the coverage was sexist and to defend their own channels.
The news executives did say some of the reporting has been slightly surprising. One executive describes the coverage as a “feeding frenzy.” But for the most part, the interviewees defended the coverage. The McCain campaign was the first to put the Palin family in the forefront of the campaign when they announced that Palin’s 17-year-old child was pregnant, the news outlets argued. The news outlets were just reporting the story that they were given. A story that makes people “uncomfortable.”
The other coverage story I looked at was a transcription of a show that aired on Fox News on September 6. The show was “Fox News Watch” and was hosted by Jon Scott, the hosts were editors and columnists from three different news outlets. The round table discussion began with the guests defending or arguing against the way the media has been covering Sarah Palin. Arguments were made on behalf and against the media. What separated this article from the previous two, was that the majority of this article was about what affect the news coverage would have. Trying to find the affect the coverage could have on voters in the election made the story unique and more informative. However, as the discussion continued the story changed focus. One of the guests said the reason for the sexist coverage on Palin was because the media has proved to be liberal and vote democrat in presidential elections.
This set off a firestorm of liberal v. conservative ideology and never returned to discussing the Palin coverage. Fox News had started out the interview with a fresh and interesting perspective that could have seperated their coverage from the others. However, because the host of the show let the discussion become so polarized between Democrats and Republicans it took a turn for the worst and never got back on track.
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