news meeting

Workin’ For the Man

Exploring some of the issues with the journalists who have joined the Obama administration
February 17, 2009

There’s been much attention lately give to the growing number of journalists who have ditched their press passes and joined Barack Obama’s team, either during the campaign or in the early days of his administration. First there was CNN Middle East correspondent Aneesh Raman. Then there was ABC’s Linda Douglass. After election day, Time’s Jay Carney signed on as Joe Biden’s chief spokesperson. Peter Gosselin, a Los Angeles Times reporter and two time Polk award winner, left to become Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s chief speechwriter. This week, we learned that Jill Zuckman will leave the Chicago Tribune to work for former Illinois representative Ray LaHood, the Republican now serving as Obama’s transportation secretary.

Many prominent journalists have had careers or stints in government, both before and after becoming journalists—Walter Pincus, Charles Peters, and James Fallows, just to name three. But we live in a politically polarized world these days—one that is, perhaps more than ever, suspicious of bias stemming from party affiliation, but also one where the lines between journalist, analyst, pundit, and partisan grow blurrier by the day.

With that in mind, will (should) any of these ex-journalists ever return to journalism, and what sort of outlets would be eager to hire them? Was there a similar exodus of journalists to the Bush administration, and if not, why not? Is the newspaper industry’s financial crisis making government service more attractive? Does government gain from having journalists inside? Does journalism suffer?

The Editors are the staffers of the Columbia Journalism Review.