For some Washington reporters and media execs, cheering their team from the sidelines just isn’t good enough: Tugging on a red, white and blue Team Obama jersey is the answer.
Those inside the administration hit 14 this month when the Post’s Stephen Barr joined the Labor Department. That’s a record, say some revolving door watchers, and could even be much higher: The Post reports that “dozens” of former journalists have joined the administration, although Washington Secrets couldn’t verify that tally.
Many are in communications and speech writing offices, most prominently Jay Carney, the president’s spokesman who ran Time’s Washington bureau, and husband to ABC’s Claire Shipman. Some joined as the news business collapsed, many to finally voice their politics, and others, notably former Transportation spokeswoman Jill Zuckman, because she liked her future boss, Secretary Ray LaHood, a rare Republican in the administration. That relationship rocked: LaHood broke through the lower-tier Cabinet P.R. ceiling to become one of the most well-known Transportation secretaries ever. She had worked for the Chicago Tribune.
The revolving door isn’t a surprise to critics of the media and Obama. “The number of reporters going into the Obama administration merely confirms what I knew and what most conservatives long believed,” said Noam Neusner, himself one of the few reporters hired as a Bush speech writer. “There is a vast supply of liberals in newsrooms, they are very happy to support Obama administration policies if they can get hired and they barely hide their ideology in the way they cover the news.” Neusner, who I worked with at U.S. News, said that he too might have been guilty of a pro-Bush bias, but said correctly: “My editors and colleagues were surprised to hear that I was a Republican.”
A former GOP Capitol Hill and cabinet spokesman added, “It’s frustrating to see so many reporters that had relationships with trusted sources give up their ‘impartiality’ and start playing for the other side. It does show that the game is stacked in favor of the other side when most reporters still working in their profession remain silent.”
Stephen Hess, a presidential and journalism scholar at the Brookings Institution, said reporters can be “conflicted” when they trade places. “On the other hand,” he added, “reporters going back to journalism after a stint in government are always better reporters in that they now understand how government really works.”