PSAKI trades White House for MSNBC as TV politics pipeline progresses | american politics

JThe routine traffic of political personnel in America to the country’s television networks hit a snag last week after NBC News staffers complained about the rumored White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, planned to join the liberal media MSNBC when she left her West. Wing post this summer.

The clumsily handled decision, announced in a leak to Axios, sparked anger from reporters who said they feared the hiring of Psaki would ‘stain’ the NBC brand and reinforce the impression, already entrenched in opinion polls. , that the information industry in the United States works. hand in hand with political factions.

The PSAKI saga is not new. If the deal goes through, Psaki will join a long line of White House staffers who have moved on to media roles. In January, Symone Sanders, a former adviser and senior spokesperson for Kamala Harris, signed a deal with MSNBC to host a show.

But agreements are not exceptional on either side of the political divide. Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany joined Fox News last year; Sean Spicer has his own show on Newsmax; and CBS News hired Mick Mulvaney as a paid on-air contributor – also sparking an internal revolt that even prompted late-night host Stephen Colbert to condemn him on his show.

Anger is easy to explain. The pipeline between politics and lucrative media gigs in America is one that seems to sully public opinion of both professions, creating a sense that both sides are really in it for the money. It also encourages the feeling that politics in the United States is viewed by the media in the same way as sports – where hiring former players as commentators is common – where winning races is everything and real politics means very little.

“The pipeline from the White House to news outlets makes it harder for news outlets to have sufficient distance or be perceived as credibly scrutinizing the government,” said Ryan Thomas, associate professor at the Missouri School. of Journalism.

“Supporters argue that people won’t care or notice, but that’s not true, regardless of awareness. It is as if they are moving from a formal public relations apparatus to an informal apparatus which is inherently unhealthy, regardless of its potential effects on press accountability.

Psaki’s hiring comes at a time of press frustration as Joe Biden has given just eight free-to-air press conferences during his tenure, giving the impression of scripted and contrived performances. Psaki’s period of service, transposed to a cable news channel with a more generous salary, is likely to increase the perception that political spin and news coverage on cable news networks are so so close that they are indistinguishable.

The outgoing press secretary said she underwent ‘rigorous ethics training’ regarding ‘future employment’ before her move, adding that she hoped the press would ‘judge me for my record and the way I treat you and try to answer everyone’s questions at all levels.

Still, PSAki’s transfer to MSNBC seemed so natural that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) went so far as to launch a fundraiser. “She fought to restore faith in the free press after the Trump administration’s horrific attacks on the media,” he said in a statement. “And now she plans to join MSNBC’s fearless team of reporters to hold dangerous far-right Republicans accountable.”

Journalism ethics professors fear that this kind of high-profile hiring in a high-profile wired news network, made public while Psaki still wields a political role, risks becoming the default image of what the public sees as common practice in journalism in general.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, now host of cable channel Newsmax. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

“There is a trickle-down effect of the irresponsibility of the cable news agencies onto local journalists who are smeared by the same brush,” Thomas said.

According to new research, Americans from opposing political parties are sharply divided on how much they trust information reported by national media.

A YouGov/Economist poll released last week found that while Americans are more likely to trust than distrust many important news sources, few organizations trust more than a small proportion of Americans in the two sides of the political aisle.

Topping the list was the Weather Channel with 52%, followed by the BBC (39%), national public broadcaster PBS (41%) and the Wall Street Journal (37%). At the bottom of the list, in descending order, were CNN, OAN, MSNBC, Fox News and Breitbart.

A Gallup poll released last October found that trust in the media to report news completely, accurately and fairly had fallen slightly to 36%, making last year’s reading the second lowest on record. Only 7% of respondents said they had “a lot” of trust in newspapers, television and radio. Thirty-four percent said they had “none”.

The problem of reporting bias, never far from the lips of ideological adversaries, comes as cable news ratings saw steep declines after Trump helped expose arrangements that had been in place for a long time but never fully recognised. One was the news pipeline between CNN’s Jeff Zucker, his best colleague Allison Gollust and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and his brother Andrew. The exposure of Chris Cuomo’s advice to his brother during the sexual harassment scandal that brought down the governor of New York ultimately helped cause the younger brother to lose his job.

But it does not appear that media executives are learning the lessons of the strained ties and allegiances between their key handlers and the political establishment. According to news outlet Puck, programming executives for CNN and MSNBC were in Washington earlier this year courting potential on-air talent to fill the gaps in prime-time slots revealed by the release of Cuomo and the soon-to-depart MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, whose support for Democratic causes is outspoken.

One of the potential talents, of course, was Psaki who, according to Puck, had “achieved true celebrity status for his daily press briefings.”

Courting Psaki, Thomas said, presents an ethical problem that Psaki was negotiating new employment while determining access to reporters or answering questions from his future employer’s staff.

In the longer term, he says, there are questions of professional distance between political institutions and media outlets. “These press conferences are a review performance rather than an actual review. They become an audition process for a cable news gig,” he said.

Not only does rotation of seats harm the material ability of the press to hold the government to account, he adds, but it also raises access issues. “The White House press corps are pretty addicted to access, so they’re easily tamed and reluctant to ask the tougher questions,” Thomas added.

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