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Sarah Palin a news show 'co-host'? Rivalry with Katie Couric casts her as one.

Sarah Palin is appearing on 'Today,' pitting her against Katie Couric on 'GMA.' The ratings ploy evokes memories of the 2008 interview, but raises questions about the moniker 'co-host.'

By Staff writer / April 2, 2012

NBC's 'Today' show is bringing former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (l.) on board as a co-host Tuesday morning, pitting her against Katie Couric on ABC's 'Good Morning America'.

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As Sarah Palin prepares to go head-to-head with Katie Couric in guest appearances on the NBC and ABC morning news shows Tuesday, a few words are raising eyebrows among news watchers, namely the moniker “co-host” for Ms. Palin. 

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NBC, promoting the appearance of the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate on its website, said: “Sarah Palin will co-host Tuesday. She’ll reveal a different side of her than you've seen before.”

As a ratings ploy, the gambit has already succeeded, garnering buzz about whether the twin appearances will evoke memories of the infamous Couric/Palin interview on CBS during the 2008 presidential campaign, which many saw as the key turning point in which the McCain/Palin ticket began to slide.

But does this move to slot an openly partisan political figure in the host seat cross some sort of important line for a morning show produced by the network news division?

“A host has the opportunity to steer the conversation,” Ed Arke, associate professor of communications at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., says via e-mail.

Palin is being billed as a co-host and her openly partisan views could be problematic, he says. But, the larger issue is whether a news magazine like the “Today” show will begin to mimic or mirror the personality-driven discussion shows of the 24/7 news networks, he adds.

The major networks such as NBC, CBS, and ABC, he says, “have managed to maintain a somewhat issues- or story-driven focus,” rather than hyping the personalities hosting the show. “This move by NBC could be the start of efforts to try and grab more attention for who is talking, rather than what the programs are discussing."

NBC spokeswoman Megan Kopf points out via e-mail that Palin will be a guest in the first hour, interviewed by the hosts. Palin will only move into the co-host chair during the second hour, where she will “participate in segments like “TODAY’s Professionals.’ ”

Ms. Kopf is quick to note that Palin will not be paid either for her appearance as a guest in the first hour or for her co-hosting stint in the second.

Nonetheless, says Jeff McCall, a professor of media studies at DePauw University in Indiana, NBC is making a big mistake by inviting Sarah Palin on the show as a co-host.

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