Tuned In

Obama Presser: Diminishing Returns?

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Like a much-hyped drama debut shedding viewers to find its level, President Obama’s press conferences are drawing fewer viewers each time out. The President’s Wednesday night outing drew 28.8 million viewers on all networks covering, down 29% from his March conference and down from 49.5 million for his first. Nielsen has the numbers. 

This one, you recall, was distinguished by Fox’s having opted out to air Lie to Me. But Lie to Me didn’t get a big boost from the counterprogramming either; it beat any single broadcast airing of the press conference, but at 7.9 million viewers was consistent with how it does every week. Maybe the general TV viewership was down that night; or maybe TLC network got a sudden viewership surge. 

From a White House perspective, I suppose that each press conference doesn’t need to draw massive numbers to be effective. And with a swine flu outbreak and sundry economic and foreign-policy fires to put out, it’s not like there wasn’t news to discuss. (It might have been more interesting, though, after the news of Chrysler’s bankruptcy and David Souter’s imminent retirement.)

But I wonder whether—beyond simple press-conference exhaustion—the event also suffered from being pegged not to a single news event or policy initiative but to the Hallmark holiday of the 100-days anniversary. In which case I congratulate the American public for ignoring the nonevent, if if the news media (present company included) didn’t.