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The 'JournoList' Controversy, Fox News and the 'Helen Thomas Seat'

5 years ago
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Recently, The Daily Caller revealed that liberal academics and journalists on the now-defunct "JournoList" (a supposedly off-the-record listserv where liberal and left-leaning writers would share ideas) suggested using government power to take down Fox News.

That alone would have been newsworthy. But it turns out that one of the journalists disparaging Fox News in e-mails was Michael Scherer of Time magazine. And unlike the other Fox critics on the JournoList, Scherer may actually be in a position to use his authority to hurt Fox News.

In this case, Scherer could potentially help block Fox from inheriting Helen Thomas' prized front-row seat for White House briefings. The reason is that Scherer recently won a seat on the board of directors of the White House Correspondents' Association. Ultimately, the White House press secretary decides who sits where in the James Brady Briefing Room, but the president's communications team solicits -- and generally follows -- the advice of the correspondents' association.

A spirited competition is taking place to determine which media outlet will get the Thomas seat for White House briefings. Helen Thomas, Barack ObamaMany believe that Fox News should get the seat. Michael Scherer would seem to be openly unsympathetic to Fox's claim.

According to The Daily Caller, Scherer agreed with Guardian columnist Daniel Davies who wrote that "peer pressure" and "self-regulation" weren't enough to control Fox News, and so what was needed was a "tough legal framework."

Scherer then went on to add that Roger "Ailes understands that his job is to build a tribal identity, not a news organization. You can't hurt Fox by saying it gets it wrong, if Ailes just uses the criticism to deepen the tribal identity."

To be fair, the Daily Caller story goes on to note that Scherer pushed back when another JournoLister suggested the Federal Communications Commission should pull Fox's broadcasting permit. Reached for comment on Wednesday, a spokesman for Time released a statement, saying, "Michael Scherer fully disputes The Daily Caller's account, which selectively quotes his e-mails and takes his comments about the changing news landscape entirely out of context. In his e-mails he vocally opposes any suggestions to restrict Fox News."

Coming on the heels of the Shirley Sherrod story -- where the comments of a USDA worker were clearly taken out of context to misrepresent her opinions -- this is an allegation that deserves attention. The Daily Caller should release the entire record of Scherer's comments regarding Fox News. Additionally as a member of the listserv, Scherer would also be in a position to produce evidence disputing the Daily Caller's story.

Regardless, the record shows Scherer is clearly not a fan of Fox News -- a point that would be less relevant had Scherer not recently won the magazine seat on White House Correspondents' Association board.

While some may dismiss the jockeying over the Helen Thomas seat as trivial, it is not. Fox News officials believe they have earned the right to have their White House correspondent (currently Major Garrett) to sit in the front row with his contemporaries from other major outlets. The timing of the Daily Caller exposé also makes it compelling. As FishbowlDC recently reported, the correspondents' "board plans to make final decisions by Aug. 2."

Will Scherer, who did not return repeated e-mails or phone calls seeking comment, recuse himself from the vote? If not, will he explain why he believes that, despite his published comments, he can help decide this matter in, well . . . a fair and balanced way?

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I don't care who gets her seat , Fox will continue to do there job as they do . The others who do not ask the hard questions who just sit there and ask softball questions are of no use to us . As far as the list well they will continue to be in the tank for Obama and will slime fox when they can so who cares . The public know what's up and are pulling away from this admin. and president in droves , Why ? Because we see thru there game .

July 27 2010 at 5:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Are you kidding me? Do you really think we care where all of you sit in press meetings? Jeez, the egos on you journalists. Let me open your sheltered mind...the citizens in this Country care about the TRUTH in the news. After reading about the Journo List, I have lost faith in all of you. All we can do is read a story now and see the slant become ever increasing and by most comments from readers, you are failing miserably in attempts to "making us believe" what you say. God help this Country if we only get hand picked journalists that will write only hand picked opinions and stories. Why don't you all start acting like real journalists with actual truth for a change. Stop trying to censor those you don't like.

July 26 2010 at 10:14 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

In "olden" days the President answered many reporter's questions. Sometimes as long as 45 minutes or so. Now reporters are "selected" like the President is afraid to answer or might not have the answer or is afraid to look "bad". With the teleprompter speeches, perhaps written by a group of White House writers, I wonder just what does the president actually think about certain subjects and what is "fed" to him, he certainly can't be any worse than Gibbs.

July 26 2010 at 8:40 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

FOX NEWS has not shown recently that they deserve a front seat at the White House daily briefing. Their behavior during the Sherrod affair was particularly egregious. They also claim to be fair and balanced while constantly shilling for the republican party.

July 26 2010 at 8:34 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

I can't afford cable, so I've never seen Fox News (except for Fox News Sunday, which I watch avidly) and I have no idea what a listserv is, but I was editor of a college weekly @44 years ago, and it seems to me that advocate journalism is something to be avoided. Writers whose job it is to cover the White House ought to be objective, and if we can't have objective, we could at least get some balance.

July 26 2010 at 8:22 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

When considering breaking news, candidates for public office - or anything else for that matter, I now trust any of the media 0-percent after reading about how they had a backroom agenda to falsely paint Republicans as racists to boost Obama. It still seems to be the case. And their successful plot to undermine Palin as a VP candidate makes me extremely happy to see her laughing all the way to the bank these days.

July 26 2010 at 1:48 PM Report abuse +14 rate up rate down Reply

I have been surprised by the lack of comments on this article which does a very good job of describing what I see as a significant problem. It doesn't matter to the general public where a reporter sits in a Presidential briefing. What does matter is how that reporter uses and reports that information. We seem to have reached a point in time where journalists have rejected any form of ethics just so they can try to shape the feelings of the public. People are not so stupid as to accept this and now we find both newspapers and magazines failing. Try to blame it on the economy, but watch the failure continue after the economy rebounds.

July 26 2010 at 11:39 AM Report abuse +16 rate up rate down Reply

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