As we approach another version of what I have come to think of as network-White House co-productions, the TV press desperately needs to step back and question how it is covering President Barack Obama.
Next Wednesday night at 10, ABC News will offer the president an hour of prime time — as well as prime real estate on all its newscasts throughout the day — to sell his landmark health care plan.
The need for such self-scrutiny should be all the more apparent in light of the president’s complaint Tuesday about one media outlet (read: Fox News) “attacking” his administration. I am no less troubled than I ever was about the way Fox and MSNBC have turned all-news into all-partisan opinion TV in prime time, but thank goodness at least one TV outlet, Fox, is questioning Team Obama as it pushes for the kind of massive change in American life not seen since the era of Franklin Roosevelt.
Of the president’s whining about Fox, he writes:
Given all the reckless and irresponsible words uttered by the likes Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, I hesitate to write these words, but good for Fox. It must be doing something right, if it has the president complaining about the tiny bit of scrutiny he gets on TV.
On the other hand, if Fox News is our last, best TV watchdog on the White House, then the TV press, as well as media critics like me, should be profoundly embarrassed, and vow to start doing a better job — immediately.
Now, of course, the two hosts he identifies are opinion-makers and not reporters — a distinction Fox critics often overlook. Unlike MSNBC which had Keith Olbermann running the election return desk during the primaries, Fox maintained a distinction between commentators/hosts (e.g. Hannity) and reporters/anchormen (e.g. Chris Wallace).
But this is the irony: the hated, much-mocked (by elite opinion-makers) Fox must be acknowledged as the only TV news organization doing its job — critically examining the president, asking impertinent questions and avoiding the fawn-a-thon that has gripped the rest of the media. Fox hardly needs any advice from me on advertising (they have been going gang-busters this year), but “the only news organization not in bed with the White House” isn’t a bad slogan.