Earlier today, I announced that I was invited to be a guest on TLC’s podcast about Sarah Palin’s Alaska, the new reality show starring and executive produced by the former Governor, GOP VP nominee, and potential future POTUS candidate. I wrote to give you all a sneak peek into what I planned to talk about on the show, which — as I blogged — was exactly what I had discussed with the podcast’s rep prior to being booked for the segment.
Turns out, dear reader, that your sneak peek is to be your only peek: my segment has been canceled specifically because of that blog post.
I was first told that my “tone” in my blog post made the podcast and show’s powers-that-be uncomfortable. I reminded the booker that I hadn’t said anything in the blog post (other than my thoughts about the show’s sop to the NRA, which I hadn’t been asked about and had forgotten to mention) that I hadn’t previously, honestly and clearly stated before she booked me. I explained that I reserve my snark especially for you, my lovely readers, but that I am always professional and appropriate when I offer media commentary in broadcast forums — as the dozens of TV, radio and podcast interviews listed on the media page attest.
And then, as they say, things got weird…
After a long, cordial conversation with TLC podcast host Brian Reich, it turns out my “tone” wasn’t the real problem: it’s that I’m just too “political”… for a show about a former Governor and potential future Republican presidential candidate. In announcing his decision to scrap my interview, Reich writes that “Sarah Palin’s Alaska is not a political show” and they “try to avoid conversations that are seen as being political wherever possible,” but “Because of [Jennifer’s] blog post earlier today, this has turned into a politically charged conversation. As such, in the interest of fostering a constructive and compelling dialogue,” it’s buh-bye Jenn.
Let’s recap, shall we?
As the author of a book about manipulations and bias in reality television, I am too “political” for a reality show that functions as a series-long unpaid political advertisement for the potential future President of the United States of America. And to foster compelling dialogue: uninvite the independent media critic, pronto.
Is irony alive and well? As Palin herself might say: Oh, you betcha!
Still, the firestorm that erupted on Twitter over my impending (and then rescinded) segment on TLC’s podcast would have you think this is all far more important than it is. To Palin’s furious, ever-complaining fans, I’m “an out-and-proud Palin-hater” who shouldn’t be allowed to spew “bile” and “vitriol.” (This only seems to indicate that they hadn’t read my post, which didn’t critique Sarah Palin’s politics at all aside from the pro-gun aspect — I simply talked about the format of the show allowing a candidate to flout regulations around political ads.) And to some of my progressive followers, TLC’s decision to scrap my segment is akin to silencing my First Amendment rights, which they’re not really doing. They want to find another way to work with me outside of the live format. Do I agree with their decision to keep me off the live podcast? No. But I understand it: since the podcast accepts calls, who can blame them for wanting to avoid the potential for the ranting and raving tweets to travel over to the podcast? I wasn’t the reason the conversation couldn’t be assured to remain productive: the potential for a live call-in flame war was.
So, instead, Brian Reich and I are going to keep talking. We plan to figure out a way for me to share my perspective on Sarah Palin’s Alaska — and my analysis of gender, race, class and more in reality television from Reality Bites Back — on TLC’s website, in the network’s blogs, and possibly on the podcast in a taped segment that doesn’t involve callers.
The following is Brian’s Reich’s explanation of his decision regarding my involvement with the podcast, as posted on TLC’s website:
Change of Plans
[Post Updated at 8:25pm EST]
A quick update on our plans for tonight’s podcast…
The interview with Jennifer Pozner that was scheduled for tonight’s TalkBack Live podcast has been canceled.
[NOTE: Robert Galinsky from the Reality TV School will be joining us on the podcast instead. Robert is the founder of the first comprehensive training program for individuals interested in being part of unscripted television shows and we will discuss some of what people should understand about how tonight’s episode, and the show more generally, is put together.]
Let me explain…
We had invited Jennifer Pozner, a media critic, lecturer and the author of ‘Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV to be a guest on tonight’s TalkBack Live podcast. Specifically, we had asked Jennifer to talk about how gender is presented on television and whether unscripted television offers an accurate portrayal of women in society.
We canceled the interview because our planned conversation became, perhaps inadvertently, political.
Earlier today, Jennifer posted on her blog that she felt Sarah Palin’s Alaska was “a series-long unpaid political advertisement, helping a potential presidential candidate brand herself in exactly the down-home, family-values-having, rugged individualist image she has always favored for herself and her family.” These views were not new – she has posted several times about the show in the past, sometimes critically.
Update: When we spoke with Jennifer in advance of scheduling the interview, she told us that she planned to discuss the unique way the series is allowing
a politician to construct a message outside of political advertising.
Within minutes of her post going live and her subsequent promotion of it on Twitter, we started to hear from people — most of them questioning, or criticizing, our decision to have a known political critic on the show. [Update: Jennifer is a media critic, not a political critic.]
Let me be clear about a few things:
– First, we were fully aware of Jennifer’s views related to show. Because SPAlaska.com is a forum for conversation about Sarah Palin’s Alaska – including criticism of the show – we felt it was appropriate to have her participate in the podcast, as long as she was willing to keep her political views out of our discussion. This has been the same standard that we have applied to all our previous guests to date.
– Second, Jennifer did not mislead me or my team with regard to what she had written in the past or planned to discuss on tonight’s podcast. Moreover, we do not consider Jennifer to be a political commentator, or even to have a political view to offer in relation to the show. Her expertise is in unscripted television and that’s what we had intended for her to talk about in relation to Sarah Palin’s Alaska.
We have made it known from the start that Sarah Palin’s Alaska is not a political show. Sure, there has been plenty of conversation of Sarah Palin’s Alaska through a political lens — some of it on our blogs — but when the focus turns political the conversation goes off track. And for that reason we try to avoid conversations that are seen as being political wherever possible.
We can’t stop anyone from having a political view about the show, and we aren’t trying to, but we have made a point not to force a political discussion on the podcast, or anywhere else. In fact, our job at SPAlaska.com to help people access different elements of the show and to support a constructive dialogue about what is seen on each episode from many different perspectives.
Because of her blog post earlier today, this has turned into a politically charged conversation. As such, in the interest of fostering a constructive and compelling dialogue about what people see on tonight’s episode, we have decided to not to go forward with the interview with Jennifer Pozner.
I am confident that Jennifer’s perspective on Sarah Palin’s Alaska, as well as her expert perspective on how women — and more specifically Kate Gosselin and Sarah Palin together are presented in unscripted television — is both relevant, and would have been interesting. But we thought it best to cancel the interview and find other ways to address the topic.
[Update: I am very much hoping we can still have a conversation about the role of women in unscripted television and, where appropriate, how that relates to what we are seeing every Sunday night on Sarah Palin’s Alaska. I plan to include Jennifer Pozner in that conversation – not quite sure how yet (so don’t everyone freak out on me) – and I hope that those who have been critical of our decision to include her in the podcast and/or those who have been critical of our decision to cancel the interview will consider this an invitation to share their views and opinions on this topic in the coming days.]