It came to no surprise among media pundits that Time Magazine’s Managing Editor Richard Stengel will be taking a job as a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department. His new title, under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, will have Stengel leading communications outreach for the department across many issues, ranging from cultural programs to terrorism.
Time Magazine is no stranger to the Obama Administration. Former Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief Jay Carney joined the president’s staff as White House press secretary in January 2011 after serving as Vice President Joe Biden’s communications director.
Journalists historically have transitioned from hack to flack, probably more so in recent times as traditional news outlets struggle to survive in today’s Internet-based media landscape. It’s happening in the corporate world as well, and has for decades, with financial reporters taking jobs at public relations firms, including ours, as well as within internal corporate communications departments to focus on media and investor relations.
On one hand, it’s hard to deny these moves don’t affect the credibility of journalism or at least each reporter’s former news outlet. Reporters accepting positions at organizations they once covered can create an allure of collusion within an industry that prides itself as being vigorously independent, unbiased and objective.
The pendulum swings both ways, however. Scores of business executives and political officials have transitioned to various media gigs, including talk show hosts and media contributors.
Business, politics and journalism always have had incestuous relationships. Some good, others not so good. With New York City’s primary elections over, and Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer losing their bids for mayor and comptroller, respectively, all eyes will be on which politician may be the next media pundit. Perhaps both.
— George Medici, firstname.lastname@example.org