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Seattle P-I delays on ‘blowing up’ Palin story

September 2, 2008

This week’s Sarah Palin story du jour looks like a three-horse race with illegitimate child out ahead of ethical quagmire and spousal political skeletons, but I’d like to turn the clock back to last Friday morning and shed some light on a decision I found interesting.

By 10:45 a.m. (PDT), several hours after Gov. Palin had been announced as Sen. John McCain’s VP pick, most major news sites were running it as their top story:

One, however — my hometown Seattle Post-Intelligencer — bucked the trend and ran with Sen. Barack Obama’s big speech from the Democratic National Convention (which, of course, took place the night before) as their “big” story:

The Palin nomination had taken precedence by 11 a.m. or so; I found this apparent delay curious. Far be it for me to criticize or question what the Seattle P-I does with its Web site, but it seemed odd that they were in the extreme minority of sites who ran Obama’s speech ahead of Palin’s nomination. (I say “sites,” but I don’t actually have evidence of any other Web site having made a similar judgment call.)

There seem to be plenty of reasons for the story placement, some more likely than others:

• The story broke fast and whoever was managing content placement that day just didn’t notice it for about 15 minutes. (Unlikely — we’re talking about the Seattle P-I here.)
• Technical difficulties. (Possible — computers can do crazy things.)
• Liberal bias. (Unlikely — if you’re a liberal it doesn’t exist and if you’re a conservative it’s always a hidden agenda, i.e. not displayed front-and-center on a paper’s Web site.)
• Sexism. (Possible — I can’t seem to figure out who’s on the P-I’s editorial board, but for benefit-of-the-doubt reasons, I’m going to ignore this one.)
• The powers that be just thought that Obama’s speech was bigger news. (Quite possible.)

Now I’m sure there are at least a few conservatives out there who will look at bullet points three and four and wonder how stupid I am — obviously the P-I’s elitist editorial board gathered in their ivory tower and decided to nudge the gun-toting Palin aside for holier-than-thou Barack Obama. I don’t buy it, though. What exactly would the P-I have to gain from such a move? And why would it matter when virtually every other site was giving their electronic A-1’s to Palin?

I don’t really have any concrete answers or theories here, though for what it’s worth, I would’ve played up Palin’s nomination over Obama’s speech. Obama’s acceptance of the Democratic nomination and subsequent speech were historic, no doubt, but only in an official sense. We’d known since early June that the nod was his and even before that, we were all pretty sure he’d prevail over Sen. Clinton in the primaries. Palin, on the other hand, came out of nowhere (read: Alaska) to be thrust into the position of possibly becoming the first female vice president ever (sorry, Glenn Close).

I just thought the placement of these two stories was an interesting throwback to that old J-school question of “If the real JFK assassin was revealed to be Bigfoot and a UFO landed in Central Park on the same day, what would you run as the top story in the next day’s paper?” (Or whatever.)

Of course, if anyone from the P-I cares to comment on this, I’m all ears….

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