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Front Row Center: NPR vs Fox

Credo, the politically progressive activist phone company, has launched an online petition to urge the White House Correspondents’ Association to give retired reporter Helen Thomas’ coveted front row seat in the White House Briefing Room to NPR, instead of FOX News.

In a just-launched Facebook and social media campaign, Credo links to NPR News Editor David Sweeney’s letter to the WHCA applying for the newly-vacant seat, in which he details NPR’s audience growth over the last decade as evidence for why NPR deserves this prime position.

He writes, “Since 2000, NPR’s average weekly audience has grown by approximately 54%, exceeding the growth rate of other broadcast media and in contrast to continuing circulation declines in print media.”

In other words, NPR is thriving, while highly respected legacy media from the last century is on life support. And, by the way, NPR’s been hanging out in the briefing room longer than its two competitors for the Thomas spot – Fox and Bloomberg News –  who are more recent arrivals on the national media scene.

NPR is “not affiliated with this petition in any way,” according to NPR spokesperson Anna Christopher Bross. “We do not have a position on it – it’s not appropriate for us to either support or not support it.”

Yet, social media organizing on NPR’s behalf could backfire, leaving NPR in the 3rd row (directly behind the New York Times). According to this seating chart, Fox is in the second row (directly behind Helen Thomas); Bloomberg is also in the 2rd row. 

Perhaps the White House reporters should just arm wrestle: Ari Shapiro versus Major Garrett. How about a singing or dancing competition? Flip coins? Draw straws? Musical chairs? Maybe both networks could battle it out on the softball field?

Or maybe NPR and FOX could agree to share the seat and just have Mara Liasson take it. She’s a natiional political correspondent for NPR and a “political contributor” for FOX, an affiliation that’s reportedly caused some concern at NPR last year. 

The White House Correspondents’ Association board is meeting August 2nd to decide. NPR’s Don Gonyea is an officer. I suspect he’ll have to recuse himself from voting.

I, for one, do hope NPR gets to move front and center. Although some might say it’s symbolic of where the network has moved politically, there’s no doubt many others consider NPR as far to the left as Fox is to the right.

Politics aside, capturing the hottest seat in the White House would be a major achievement for public media. It would give NPR an opportunity to be seen and heard on C-SPAN and other live broadcasts, hopefully using the privilege wisely on behalf of all Americans, asking the best, smartest, toughest questions in the room. Then, perhaps PBS NewsHour could take NPR’s seat.