The economic crisis on Wall Street is being described as the final pop to a bursting economic bubble. But in the realm of politics, the grim news may have snapped another: namely, the media attention that accompanied Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's rise to the national stage.
A Nexis search for Palin's name within the "major newspapers" category during the week before Monday September 15 -- when the stock market dropped more than 500 points -- yields 2,697 results, representing an impressive haul of coverage. (By contrast, search for "Joe Biden" over the same period and you will only find 613 articles vying for your attention.) But, counting from last Monday, the same Palin search on Nexis turns up 1,866 hits, a decrease of just under 31 percent.
Of course, a raw total of clippings tells little about the tenor of coverage a candidate receives. The last week has not been easy on Palin, either. In the past few days, her husband's decision not to cooperate in the "troopergate" probe, and the apparent outsourcing of the governor's Alaska office to John McCain headquarters has dominated Palin-related headlines. While her interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity also merited some coverage, some of it focused on the thinness of her answers, just as with her interviews with ABC's Charles Gibson. The Washington Post deemed her "retreat is defeat in Iraq" answer to a Hannity question "a slogan, not a vision for how to proceed," while a Baltimore Sun columnist described her interlocutor as "all smiles and servility" -- not particularly helpful in combating the perception that Palin is asking to play slow-pitch ball in the major leagues by avoiding tough questions.
Was it the economic crisis that got newspapers off the Palin beat, or just the inevitable coming down to earth after a major media scrum? Of course, it's difficult to say for certain. But even withing the decreasing number of stories about Palin, once can find a certain relief among press members who are eager to talk about issues instead of personalities. In the week before last Monday's market crash, 16 stories turned up in major newspapers in which Palin was discussed through the lens of "lipstick" -- the punchline to her well-received joke at the RNC and a subsequent headache for Barack Obama after he used the same term in a different context.
Last week, Palin and lipstick only merited four articles in major newspapers, according to Nexis. And one of those four was headlined "Farewell, distractions."