There’s something that just doesn’t sit right with me about the coverage of the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s teenage daughter. Clearly we are moving quickly toward a more personal — call it tabloid — form of journalism in this country. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. The “he said/she said” form of objective reporting is broken and represents a losing business model. But I hope we are not also losing the standards of good taste and ethical conduct.
Plenty has been written and broadcast about this story. I won’t rehash the details. Palin and the McCain campaign disclosed yesterday that the governor’s teenage daughter is pregnant and plans to marry the father and have the baby. Oh, boy. That hit the airwaves with about the same force as Gustav moving through the Gulf Coast — and the story got legs after posts on the Daily Kos, a liberal blog.
Howard Kurtz has an excellent story about this in The Washington Post today, “A Blogger, a Baby, a Cry of Concern.” Here’s from the story:
It is hardly unusual for a teenage girl to become pregnant, and unless she is Jamie Lynn Spears, who sold her baby pictures to OK! magazine, the news value is minimal. But some media commentators say Palin is fair game, not just because she is running for national office but because she is a self-described “hockey mom” who told the nation that her eldest son is headed to Iraq.
“Once she’s brought her children in as selling points, unfortunately the bad comes in with the good,” says Lisa Bloom, a Court TV anchor. “She’s integrating her mom quality as a key part of her résumé. We didn’t do that in the press; she did that.”
Give me a break. I believe the story about Palin and her daughter is news. But it doesn’t warrant the firestorm it created — especially with the talking-head pundits on TV. Slice and dice Sarah Palin’s record and views on abortion, family values, whatever, all you want. But this is essentially a family matter involving a teenage girl (and boy) who is not a public figure. If we start holding candidates responsible for the actions of their children, we won’t elect anyone in this country.
Barack Obama had it right when he said during a news conference yesterday that families are off limits. Period.
And yet CNN went right from that report to a reporter in Alaska who talked for several minutes about — well, you know. Sarah Palin’s daughter. Good grief.
Then this morning I catch up on the musings highlighted on The Huffington Post. Yep. Sarah Palin’s daughter front and center. And get this. The Huffington pundits have a photo and story about the teenage boy, soon to be married and a father, apparently. And Huffington took the info from his MySpace page.
Objectivity — no, not really.
Good taste — no.
Ethical conduct — no.
And journalists used to look down on public relations people. Hehehe.