- The Washington Times - Monday, January 11, 2010

Sarah Palin has signed a multi-year broadcast deal to serve as a contributor to Fox News, a provocative venture that immediately shook the media landscape Monday, prompting heavy commentary from her fans and foes alike.

“I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News,” the former governor of Alaska said. “It’s wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news.”

The network did not reveal the complete terms of the arrangement. But it appears to be an happy match.

“Governor Palin has captivated everyone on both sides of the political spectrum and we are expected to add her dynamic voice to the Fox News lineup,” said Bill Shine, Fox News’ executive vice president of programming.

Plans call for Mrs. Palin to offer network-wide political analysis, appear in “special event” coverage and host periodic episodes of “Real American Stories,” a new Fox series that showcases inspirational stories from across the nation.

“The most important thing is for Fox News to let Sarah be Sarah. She is a natural brand that people recognize and like instantly. They should just let her be herself,” said John Tantillo, a New York marketing expert who first coined the programming name “The O’Reilly Factor” for Fox News.

“It would be very unwise if Sarah Palin went too New York or too Hollywood or too Washington in her new role. She’s got to avoid that. The reason people like her is that they can relate to her. She doesn’t need a lot of flashy stuff,” Mr. Tantillo continued. “The audience detects that she’s getting too fancy and they’re going to think she’s become one of ‘them.’ You know. The ‘media.’”

Fox News has a canny habit of hiring political heavyweights with immediate name recognition, plenty of on-camera prowess and the chutzpah to hold their own in the roughhouse press. Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee have all become part of the Fox stable in the past year, driving the political and cultural discourse with cachet, and a little brute force.

Mrs. Palin, who has been consistently vilified or mocked by the mainstream press, has also held her own in the media milieu since her meteoric debut almost 18 months ago as a running mate for Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, in his quest for the White House. She often has fended off critical press coverage through social media, posting clear policy statements on Facebook and the occasional heartfelt missive via Twitter.

Monday’s announcement sparked a broad swath of reactions, pro and con.

“Palin joins Fox: There is a God,” said the Kansas City Star in the aftermath.

“Sarah Palin to join Fox News, gains official wingnut status,” noted the San Francisco Chronicle.

Fox News is not the only network to employ a politico, however.

“It’s odd that liberals would complain about the crossover out of politics, just as ABC named George Stephanopoulos to host its new morning show,” observed Tim Graham of the Media Research Center, who pointed out that perennial presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan appeared on CNN in between his campaigns in 1992 and 1996.

“Stephanopoulos’ new programming should be called ‘Good Morning, Conflict of Interest,’” he added.