You could say the same thing lately for Fox News Channel itself. Fox hasn't gone soft, but from watching its coverage lately, I get a sense that the haven for conservative hosts, and viewers alienated by liberal news, needs to figure out its next act. Fox News is not simply a mouthpiece for the Bush White House: it rose with Bush after 2000 and 9/11, was played on TVs in his White House and reflected the same surety and flag-lapel-pin confidence in its tone and star-spangled look. It was not just a hit; it was the network of the moment.
Now, with two Democrats locked in what seems like a general-election campaign and lame-duck Bush fading from the headlines, it has to figure out how not to seem like yesterday's news. At times recently, the network has appeared uncertain about its focus. Its primary-night coverage has felt staid and listless. Sometimes it has gone tabloid with celebrity-news, true-crime and scandal stories (WEBSITES POSTING SEXY PICS LIFTED FROM FACEBOOK). At other times it has retreated into a kind of war-on-terrorism news-talgia, playing up threatening chatter and new missives from al-Qaeda leaders while its rivals are doing the election 24/7; flipping to Fox can feel like time-traveling to 2002.