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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Saturday Night Live effect on American media

<rlier this spring, when Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were battling for the right to run as the Democratic Presidential candidate in this year’s general election, long-running Saturday Night Live ran a skit depicting a debate between the two candidates. The skit, which satirized the way that media coverage seemed to be biased in Obama’s favor, had Clinton being asked all questions first, and questions given to Obama were significantly easier. The moderator of the debate asked Obama if he was comfortable, or if he wanted a pillow.

In the days following the skit, mainstream media started to publicly question whether they were, indeed, as biased in Obama’s favor as SNL suggested. Review of debates showed that Clinton was actually asked questions first more than Obama. Much was made about the effect that a SNL skit could have on the media, and on the course of the democratic primaries.

Now, with the uncanny likeness between Tina Fey, an ex-SNL cast member, and Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, SNL could be having a similar effect with less than a month left in the Presidential campaign. Fey has appeared as Palin for three straight weeks, and is likely to continue to guest-star as long as Palin figures to play a prominent political role. The first skit involving Palin was a mock-press conference that had Palin joining together with Hillary Clinton to protest sexism in the media. The second was a spoof of Palin’s interview with Katie Couric, and the third was a recreation of the debate between Palin and Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate.

Just as with the skits aired during the Democratic primary season, each of the skits that have involved Palin has involved some issue involving the media. In the first case, SNL tried to highlight the hypocrisy of the sexism that Republicans have accused of Democrats, that the issue became important once Palin rose to the national level, and not when Clinton was fighting to be the Democratic candidate. SNL’s take on the Katie Couric interview spoofed the incredible responses given by Palin, and, at times, her utter incomprehensibility. In what has so far been her only interview, it was hardly discussed by the media that Palin seemed to not understand issues central to the campaign.

Finally, the most recent skit involving Palin had Palin ignoring questions at the debate, and instead discussing completely separate topics, or highlighting her own past. Following the Palin-Biden debate, there was very little media coverage given to the fact that not only has access to Palin been limited to the extent that follow-up questions were not allowed, but also that most of Palin’s responses were clearly scripted.

Ultimately, it becomes a question of journalistic ethics that SNL’s skits have highlighted, and should continue to highlight. Should the American media be complacent about the fact that Palin has been more guarded by the Republican Party than anything in recent history, or should the media ask the right questions – the necessary questions? With time running out in the campaign, it seems that the media is going to need to decide what to do. After all, there’s only so many Saturday nights left before November 4.

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