The White House Press Corps Board Just Doesn’t Get It
When word leaked out that FOX News was competing for the coveted front-row center seat in the White House briefing room formerly occupied by the legendary Helen Thomas, liberal activists created an uproar. MoveOn.org and CREDO Action launched a petition drive to stop the White House Correspondents Association board from giving the seat to FOX, and instead award it to NPR, who was also vying for the seat along with Bloomberg News.
The petition drive was successful – sort of. Although the board eventually awarded the center seat on Sunday to the Associated Press, FOX still got promoted from its second-row place up to the AP’s former front row seat. NPR got moved up to FOX’s old seat. (Thomas abruptly retired after 50 years as a White House correspondent when footage of some rather unfortunate comments she made about Israel surfaced on the Web.)
MoveOn and CREDO hailed the decision by the association’s board to deny FOX the center seat, but the fact that this nakedly right-wing propaganda outfit masquerading as a news channel now gets to sit in the front row is still an embarrassment. FOX shouldn’t be in the room, let alone have the same honor bestowed on it as truly legitimate news organizations. Their presence makes a mockery of the White House press corps.
But then again, I’ve thought for a long time now that the White House press corps had turned from an institution of respectable and hard-nosed reporters digging for truth (like in Helen Thomas’ heyday) to a club of overpaid prima-donnas obsessed with catching the president in an embarrassing soundbite when they’re not at the next minute getting cozy with Beltway officials to preserve their precious “access.” Thomas was the last – and perhaps, the greatest – of her kind of Washington correspondent, a holdover from the days when the news media did speak truth to power, and when reporters didn’t bend over backwards to appease corporate overlords concerned with quarterly profits rather than informing the public.
What really got my blood boiling was a comment attributed to a press corps board member when the petition drive was launched. This member criticized the advocacy groups for “smearing” FOX’s reporters and producers, who she said are “some of the best and well-respected in the business.” But “smearing” is what this channel does to other people 24/7 – particularly to those who don’t follow the conservative political agenda. Shirley Sherrod. Van Jones. ACORN. Those are just the most recent casualties of FOX’s journalistic transgressions. And, why would such good reporters work at a place so obviously beneath their talents? Oh, I guess if you dangle enough money in someone’s face, principles can be easily compromised.
The association’s board stated that it was giving FOX the front row seat as a recognition of the channel’s “length of service and commitment.” Commitment to what? Commitment to spreading lies about everything from why America is in such a financial mess to those phantom Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction?” Commitment to vile race-baiting, misinformation and crude political discourse? And why is it that one gaffe costs Helen Thomas her career, but when FOX constantly engages in irresponsible behavior it gets rewarded? Why does the White House Correspondents Association board now have such low standards?
I’ve got my issues with NPR, which is more corporate these days because Congress won’t properly fund it. But NPR’s status as a long standing public broadcaster should’ve taken precedence over FOX. NPR should be sitting beside the AP in the front row. I cannot understand why so many in the American journalism establishment keep defending FOX. This is precisely the wrong image of American media culture we are sending to the rest of the world. FOX should be treated like the television version of a supermarket tabloid – ignored and marginalized. This suck up to a propaganda outfit just makes old media look more and more irrelevant. I’d like to have the White House press corps be filled entirely with independent and foreign journalists who know how to ask tough and intelligent questions rather than the gotcha drivel with which some of the American mainstream Washington correspondents waste the viewing audience’s time.