Business Insider published something this morning claiming that Fox would attend — I’ve reproduced the key bit from their post below — but as I’m writing this they’ve changed it to say that the network’s undecided, which Fox itself later confirmed. Attending would be a bad idea, even though arguably Fox can be cut a bit more slack than outlets like WaPo and Politico that simply want an audience with His Excellency on whatever terms he chooses. As the target of one of the DOJ’s probes, and knowing that they’re the White House’s least favorite news source, Fox might view this as an opportunity to confront Holder that’s unlikely to recur for the rest of O’s term. But that gets back to my point last night: If the injury from the DOJ’s actions is chiefly to the public’s right to know rather than to the guild’s right to operate as it sees fit, then Fox shouldn’t attend unless the meeting’s on the record. The AP was also targeted in an aggressive DOJ leak investigation and may want to confront Holder just as much as Fox does, but they’ve announced that they won’t go if Holder insists on keeping the proceedings hush-hush. The more media outlets that join that boycott, the more pressure there is on Holder to open it up. Fox is helping him out here, however inadvertently, if they decide to go.
A Fox News spokesperson told Business Insider that the network will attend an off-the-record meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss the Department of Justice’s guidelines for handling leak investigations.
The meeting has been pushed back against by other news organizations because of its off-the-record nature.
CNN, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and the Huffington Post have all said they will not attend the meeting unless it is on the record.
Join the boycott, force Holder to meet with the media on the record, and then you can confront him with digital recorders rolling. I for one want to hear the exchange between them about the Rosen warrant and not have it filtered second-hand through (irony of ironies) a leak to a reporter. Which is exactly what’s bound to happen, as Ron Fournier notes in his list of seven reasons why the press shouldn’t meet with Holder under these circumstances:
3. The public’s trust in media is already at an all-time low. Among the many reasons for the justified lack of faith is the perception that journalists curry favor with the elites rather than hold them ruthlessly accountable. A private meeting with the attorney general can’t help the lap-dog reputation. It would also fuel paranoia of conservatives who are convinced that the media is “in the tank” for Obama.
4. Though a relatively minor consideration, bureau chiefs compromise themselves and their newsrooms by meeting privately with Holder. Each chief has a team of reporters under orders today to find out what happened at the meetings. The chiefs can help their reporters with details of the talks, but that would violate the ground rules. They can keep their mouths shut but risk blowback from their teams when competitors report meeting details. There will be leaks; officials on one or both sides of the table will tell reporters about the conversations. So why not face that reality and conduct the meetings openly?
An ACLU rep who spoke to BuzzFeed added an eighth reason: If Holder asks them for input on how to reform DOJ leak protocols and the meeting’s off the record, how do they let the public know afterward whether Holder used any of their suggestions or not? Attendees might leak, but you can’t prove that what they’re saying is true. That goes back to Fournier’s point about currying favor — there’s no way to avoid the impression that Holder’s more interested in schmoozing them privately to lower the heat on himself than in having a legit policy debate on how to investigate leaks. I’m tempted to say that it’s unbelievable that WaPo and Politico either don’t see how it looks or don’t care, but it’s not unbelievable at all, is it?
We’re getting ahead of ourselves, though. Bret Baier is tweeting that nothing’s decided yet, which may or may not indicate pushback inside FNC to the decision. Stay tuned. A teaser:
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) May 30, 2013
Update: And the networks’ predictable cave begins:
ABC spox: "ABC News will attend the meeting and press for that conversation to be put on the record."
— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) May 30, 2013
An obvious consideration here: News outlets are surely weighing whether the White House and/or the DOJ might punish them for refusing to attend by giving their competition greater access to administration officials going forward. Now that ABC’s caved, what do you do if you’re NBC or CBS? Take a stand and reject the meeting, which gets you a day of applause online, or give in and make sure your sources are still willing to talk to you tomorrow?
Update (Ed): According to Bret Baier, the official answer is no dice:
Decision: Fox News’ Executive Vice President Michael Clemente has said that Fox News will NOT attend the DOJ meeting if it is OFF the record
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) May 30, 2013
Let’s see if this prompts other networks to rethink any acceptances.