The State Newspaper has finally posted its story on Gov. Nikki Haley’s daughter getting a job in the State House gift shop, one week after the governor’s visceral, public reaction to the newspaper’s questions shifted the story’s focus from nepotism to censorship.
After Gov. Haley lambasted The State’s “bias” for daring to ask questions about 14-year-old Rena Haley’s job, which is supervised by a Haley appointee, news of the governor’s blistering comments began traveling across the state and nation like wildfire. Aided by the Free Times’ Corey Hutchins as well as bloggers like Will Folks, Ashley Miller, Brad Warthen and yours truly, the story reached hundreds of thousands of people before The State printed a single word of it.
It’s the latest proof of an online theory called the Streisand Effect, which holds that trying to suppress an unfavorable story is generally the absolute best way to make sure as many people read it as possible. It’s named after entertainer Barbra Streisand, who once tried to sue a photographer for including a picture of her California mansion in a collection of more than 12,000 photos of the coastline. While the image had only been downloaded six times (including twice by Streisand’s lawyers) before the lawsuit was filed, the publicity surrounding the celebrity’s overreaction drove nearly half a million people to the photographer’s website in the first month alone.
Similarly, the efforts to quash The State’s story (a Haley spokesman says the governor called the newspaper herself) turned what would have been a relatively ho-hum story about a 14-year-old’s summer job into something of a media frenzy — with overtones of censorship. While the governor’s accusations that The State violated her daughter’s privacy may find some sympathy among a political base which already distrusts the “Lamestream Media,” actual experts tend to agree that the newspaper’s questions were perfectly valid:
Charles Bierbauer, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina, said the newspaper’s inquiry was “absolutely appropriate” in the context of gauging the manner in which the governor conducts herself in office.
“When job creation is a core issue in the governor’s office, creating one job for her 14-year-old daughter is something that at least warrants a question,” he said. “It’s one of those things that just doesn’t look right.”
Even though the governor’s office claimed that questions about her daughter’s summer job would threaten the girl’s safety, they were more than happy to answer the Charleston Post & Courier’s questions once The State’s story ran:
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said Haley’s daughter, Rena, usually works 20-25 hours per week and is paid $8 an hour, the same as all entry-level workers at the gift shop, which is run by the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. The hours of other gift shop workers were not trimmed to accommodate Rena’s position, he said.
Agency spokesman Marion Edmonds confirmed those facts and said Rena Haley is among seven to 12 workers in the gift shop. She primarily cleans and stocks shelves. Edmonds acknowledged that the position was not advertised, but he said that’s standard for seasonal workers, because the jobs need to be filled quickly.
It’s worth repeating that we genuinely couldn’t care less whether Rena Haley works in the State House gift shop, provided that she got the job legitimately and that other employees’ hours weren’t cut to accommodate her. We’re far more concerned with the 9.4% of South Carolinians who don’t have any kind of job, summer or otherwise.
Still, Gov. Haley’s ham-fisted attempt to quash The State’s story — combined with her disastrous vetoes earlier this month of funding for the arts and rape crisis centers — makes you wonder whether the governor should create a job for a new political adviser…