Musical chairs in the WH briefing room

MUSICAL CHAIRS IN THE WH BRIEFING ROOM…. It is, by definition, a story for Washington insiders about Washington insiders, but interest in which news organization would get Helen Thomas’ seat in the White House briefing room became something of a parlor game.

Thomas’ abrupt resignation in June meant the front-row-center seat was up for grabs, with three outlets vying for the coveted spot: Fox News, Bloomberg, and NPR. As the White House Correspondents Association neared a decision, there was actually some grassroots organizing on the subject, with CREDO Action and MoveOn.org campaigning to oppose Fox News’ bid.

The result is a game of musical chairs.

Fox News moves up, The Associated Press moves over and National Public Radio comes in second.

Mark your seating charts. The new assignments for the White House briefing room are in.

The A.P. correspondent will get the highly coveted front-row center seat previously occupied by Helen Thomas, the White House Correspondents Association announced Sunday.

The reporter for Fox will take The A.P.’s former front-row seat, moving up from the second row, and National Public Radio, now in the third-row, will replace Fox.

Here’s a chart of the seating arrangements as they existed before yesterday’s announcement. Fox News will go from a second-row-center seat to front-row-left; AP will go from front-row-left to front-row-center; and NPR will go from third-row-right to second-row-center.

The Washington Times will move from the third to the fourth row, while Politico and American Urban Radio Networks will move up to the third row. The Financial Times will, for the first time, get a regular seat in the briefing room, while U.S. News & World Report, which was sharing a fifth-row seat, has lost its position altogether.

To be sure, this isn’t exactly important news, and squabbling over seating assignments seems pretty silly for adults. But if there’s a disappointment here, it’s that Fox News is being treated as a legitimate, professional journalistic enterprise, and it shouldn’t be. It will join a front-row with credible media powerhouses — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Reuters, and AP — producing a rather powerful “one of these things is not like the other” moment.

Fox News is a propaganda outlet, a detail everyone seems to know, but which is apparently impolite to say out loud. The network’s proponents will likely argue a front-row seat is warranted because Fox News has a lot of viewers. Perhaps. But Milli Vanilli sold a lot of records, and success didn’t make them legitimate recording artists.