By Chris Gacek
The news came yesterday that Sarah Palin has agreed to become a commentator on the Fox News Channel. I agree with Andrew Breitbart (“Big Hollywood”) that Sarah Palin could become a cultural force via TV on a par with Oprah Winfrey. Palin just connects with large numbers of people in a way that very few people do.
Palin could become the sower of the seeds of a conservative counter-cultural revolution if she proceeds wisely. That said, there are dangers for Palin. Jennifer Harper’s column for today’s “Inside the Beltway” (Washington Times, 1/12/2010) quoted John Tantillo, a New York marketer who invented the title “The O’Reilly Factor” for Fox News. Tantillo made the critical observation yesterday that the Fox-Palin partnership is brilliant while noting, “….the most important thing is for the network to let Sarah be Sarah. She is a natural brand that people recognize and like instantly. They should just let her be herself.”
He continued, “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.” And, if she starts to get “too fancy” – her audience is “going to think she’s become one of ‘them.’ You know. The ‘media.’”
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Tantillo is exactly correct. The question is where can Palin eventually produce high-quality programming in which she will not be undermined, either deliberately or unintentionally, by her producers and executives. I can recall the disastrous run that talk-show host Dr. Laura had when she went to TV. Working in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Washington would be disastrous for Palin.
After thinking about this for a while, I have concluded that Palin has to base her operations in Nashville. Nashville contains a community of the highest quality musicians, producers, and technicians. Consequently, producing high-quality television there would be no problem.
More important than the technical capabilities available in Nashville is the nature of the artistic community that lives there. I have been told that something like 10% of Nashville’s music industry is focused on Christian contemporary and traditional gospel recording. That is where I think Palin could find a large number of sympathetic executives, producers, and technicians who could produce her shows while remaining loyal to her and her evangelical, conservative values and vision. I don’t think a similar community exists in either Hollywood or New York.
In an age of jet travel, there’s no reason Palin couldn’t still spend much of her time in Alaska, but her natural “base” nationally is in the South. And, if that isn’t enough – Tennessee doesn’t have an income tax.