Seems President Obama’s annual Super Bowl interview is the gift that keeps on giving. Given the NFL’s marketing of the game as a giant, American celebration as an export to the world, to me it seems fitting the president would get a few minutes. And to Fox’s credit, they are the one network that gets it right in promoting Super Bowl Sunday as true, American-original holiday.
But Fox failed with this year’s interview and once again weakens the journalistic credibility of FoxNews.
I say this not out of partisan allegiances. I have no qualms with the president taking a few brush-back pitches from the media, even before an audience more intent on eating nachos than listening to politics on this one Sunday. Fox’s failure stems from the reality that, as a news gathering and news reporting operation, they lack the biggest club in every other major broadcast news bag: the evening news anchor.
Elevating a boorish evening infotainment host to the level of a Brian Williams or Katie Couric is cynical and ham-fisted at best and a cheap stunt at worst. Would NBC give the interview to Keith Olbermann? Would CBS give the interview to Andy Rooney? No disrespect to Olbermann and Rooney, but they are NOT newsmen in the same class as Tom Brokaw or Walter Cronkite.
Before the tinfoil hat brigade falsely identifies my objection to political leanings, guess again. Couric, Williams and Diane Sawyer are talented journalists who understand their responsibility to hold leaders accountable. They are known to be tough and fair. But most of all, they are news people. They don’t host evening shoutfests that draw revenues from watching people bicker. Guess who does: Bill O’Reilly.
The most appropriate journalist in the Fox stable would’ve been Shepard Smith. He’s an actual, real, live reporter, unlike O’Reilly, who only pretends to be one when he’s not perfecting his schoolyard bully routine.
You may criticize me for choosing to not watch the interview—call it doing my part as a conscientious objector—but the argument I’m making is not one of content, but rather credential. Whether or not O’Reilly asked good questions is immaterial because he didn’t deserve the audience in the first place. Shepard Smith did. But that’s Fox’s fault for elevating its resident blowhard to anchor status. It did not highlight O’Reilly’s strength, it exposed FoxNews’ truth: it’s not a serious news bureau.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I watched enough of the interview to see it for what it was…one insecure man’s cry for attention. And his interruption-laden conversation with Barack Obama.