Sarah Palin plays the media

Like a violin.

At the risk of repeating something I said recently, Sarah Palin is orchestrating an unwittingly complicit media. Like a maestro. Frankly, it is fascinating.

Sarah Palin, with her counterintuitive secret publicity bus tour, is demonstrating one of the most important rules of American politics:

There is nothing the U.S. media wants more than something it thinks it can’t have. Hence the power of news leaks that manipulate the thrust of their initial presentation. Hard-to-get is a rigid rule of human behavior.

So there’s that, and this. A Palin email dump.

The 13,000 Sarah Palin e-mails released Friday provided little new insight about her time as Alaska’s governor. But the frantic effort to obtain the messages, dissect them and post them online served as a watershed moment for the news media, whose zealous approach will no doubt be replicated on future stories.

The spectacle on Friday was unusual even for Palin, who is known for her ability to inspire a media frenzy. Eager to be the first to post the messages online, news outlets — including The Post — dispatched reporters armed with scanners to Juneau for the 9 a.m. release of the e-mails, which were not distributed electronically but in stacks of printed paper.

Back in their newsrooms, the outlets competed to get the documents online for the public first and to capture the coveted top spot on Google. Reporters tweeted every new revelation, from 7-year-old Piper Palin’s anxiety that her mother was leaving for another trip, to the governor’s outraged notes over the scandal known as “Troopergate.” And they “crowdsourced” the documents by inviting readers to assist in scouring the e-mails.

The enormous effort drew criticism from some quarters, particularly Palin’s backers. Though Palin remains a very public figure, she is not in elective office and has said she has not decided if she will seek the Republican nomination for president next year.

Thankfully, there is still some sanity in some quarters in some media.

Even some liberal journalists pondered the public-interest value of the exercise as early as Friday morning.

“Don’t get me wrong. There’s always some nominal value in paging through the communiques of a public figure, and Palin — who’s been as public a figure as any — is a good candidate for this attention,” wrote Jason Linkins, a media reporter for the Huffington Post, before the e-mails had been released. “But it’s really not hard to think that the joke might somehow be on us.”

Score one for HuffPo.


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