Try to act surprised when I tell you there is an incestuous relationship between the corporate media and federal government. Wall Street didn’t invent the revolving door between government and business. And for those in the “mainstream media” journalism it’s first and foremost a business. So why not steal talent from your competitors? From corporate journalist to government official and back again.
The problem of course is that journalists are supposed to be a First Amendment check on government power and it is hard to keep someone in check while asking them for a job.
Enter the age of faux-journalism: light oversight and lots of résumé padding.
Jay Carney says it was a simple calculation. He could continue as a reporter and writer for the rest of his working life, or he could try something new and different…
As it happens, Carney was an early adopter. He was among the first of what has turned out to be a parade of journalists who’ve turned in their press badges for work in the Obama administration. In a trend that has raised some eyebrows among Obama’s critics, at least 20 reporters and editors from mainstream news organizations have taken high-profile positions in the administration within the past five years.
And to be clear, Jay Carney was never an impassioned crusading journalist who joined an administration to see a specific issue get done. He admits he was basically bored of being the bland reporter he was for 20 years.
But is this part of a larger trend? Will corporate reporters now become government flacks because the economics of journalism have changed?
What’s more, the news business’s financial troubles have played a significant role in driving journalists onto the job market. The Obama administration came in as the Great Recession worsened what already had been a bad slump for traditional media outlets. Since then, mainstream news organizations have shed thousands of jobs.
“The news business was going south,” says Thomson, who accepted a buyout from The Post in 2008 after 25 years at the paper. “We are at a time when reinvention is the new black. And in 2008, that’s what was in front of me, to reinvent.”
There is a more insidious question if such “reinvention” is really necessary given the already high levels of collaboration between the corporate media and government. But putting that aside, what are these journalists reinventing themselves into? Government press agents? Mercenary communication consultants?
If that is the case then that becomes the new career path as younger journalists see the road in front of them lined with senior colleagues snatching cash and benefits from people they used to report on. It’s a recipe for even worse coverage. If the so-called mainstream media is going to get in bed with government like this then it’s time for them to surrender the mantle of journalism.