Eventually, some network was going to balk at the idea of repeatedly ditching its prime-time lineup — and the advertising dollars that come with it — in order to cover one of President Obama’s press conferences. And now, with one scheduled for Wednesday, the president’s 100th day in office, Fox has become the first to jump ship.
The move isn’t about Fox News, the 24-hour cable channel, but about its corporate cousin, the broadcast network. As such, it’s almost certainly a mistake to read any sort of bias in to the decision. Granted, both are owned by Rupert Murdoch, but when it comes down to it, Murdoch’s primary motivation is usually money, not politics, and that’s the way the network has run. Remember that the broadcast arm has long aired shows with a liberal bent like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy,” and both have made fun of Fox News in the past. (Nor is the dispute one-sided; the cable channel has previously gone after “Family Guy” and reportedly threatened to sue “The Simpsons” over its parody of the newsgathering side of the operation.)
Beyond that, it’s sort of difficult to blame Fox for its decision. On the one hand, obviously, it is on the public airwaves and as such it has some obligation to inform rather than broadcast the latest episode of “When Animals Attack COPS!” (Not that anyone takes that obligation seriously anymore.) But on the other, the White House had to know this day was coming, as Obama has held an unprecedented amount of prime-time press conferences in his first months in office.
Besides, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to break with the idea that everything the president does is newsworthy in and of itself. It’s that attitude that makes the coverage of these press conferences more about the theater and less about critical examination of what’s actually said.