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Sarah Palin: What went wrong at Fox News?

By now, it should be reasonably apparent to all that Fox News badly mishandled Sarah Palin, cast off -- of her own volition, if you believe the “informed sources" -- by the network, and free to do pretty much what she pleases.

What went wrong at Fox? Let us count the ways.

 — Got off on the wrong foot immediately by having her debut on “The O'Reilly Factor” almost exactly two years ago, where she came off looking bitter and defensive and a reductively small figure compared to big, bruising confident Bill.

 — Fox never gave her own regular live show where she could have explored her own interests and those of her “constituents” (seems silly to call them “viewers").

 — Foremost, FNC let her call it in. No, literally she called it in from a studio from the remotest corners of Alaska. You could see the caribou wander by the windows; grizzly bears riffling through the garbage -- or maybe that was Joe McGinniss; Todd mucking about in the background, trying to tie on his snow shoes.

You don't phone it in. (I do, but that's another story.) Palin needed to be in New York -- amid the “enemy,” not in the cozy confines of her Wasilla studio. Roger Ailes, Fox chief, got this one badly wrong -- a rare mistake for Roger. The conversation should have been simple: “Sarah, you're a star and I'm gonna make you a star, but I ain't gonna make you a star if you're working out of a refrigerator in Alaska. Come to New York.”

The advantages of physically being in New York? Endless -- beyond mere lifestyle. It would have sharpened her up, brought her into the big leagues, forced her to understand how to really do television (amazingly, Todd, while tying on his snow shoes, ran the camera back in Wasilla).

She could have learned some real media skills, some solid “how to look and behave in front of the camera” skills. And there is simply no substitute for being present and accounted for in a hot studio, live to millions of people. One is forced to get on one's game quickly or wither away. A remote studio in Alaska, live or not, does not count.

New York would have given her access to producers, producers who would have told her you do not use the words “shuckin' and jivin'” with regard to anyone, much less a black U.S. president. (Colin Powell pointedly, and appropriately, castigated her for that remark made on the air.) Producers would have given her media smarts ---and presumably a little bit of sensitivity training along the way. Irrespective of how artlessly -- or witlessly -- her views may be expressed, Fox producers could have sharpened them.

Most of all, New York would have forced her to take this half-million-dollar-a-year gig seriously. (Some reports have had her annual FNC salary as high as $1 million per year.) Most people, for example, don't view $500G as representative of part-time work, but by staying in Alaska most of the time, she gave the impression that she “had more important things to do.” For gawd's sake, what more important things did you have to do, Sarah?!  This not only devalued her opinion, but devalued her role with Fox.

By the way, I'm not convinced of what seems to be a fairly well-traveled canard -- that she was too dumb to do TV, or at least live TV. Don't buy and never did. Everyone can do TV -- just look at the Kardashians. But I do think she didn't have the confidence to do live TV, or at least do it on a regular consistent basis. It was Fox's job to give her that confidence, build that confidence, and ultimately help turn her into a TV star. Fox failed at that, and the bobble is utterly incomprehensible.   

Finally, of course Palin must bear some blame for this failure, too. She can be difficult and imperious. Just ask anyone who worked with her on her ridiculous TLC reality show, which, by the way, Fox should have never allowed. But that was something that Fox could have, and should have corrected. She needed a strong  boss, and never got one.

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