New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman sparked a discussion about the revolving door between the White House and the Washington press corps Friday with his scoop on who else Vice President Joe Biden was considering for his next communications director. According to Sherman, Biden's top three candidates were all working journalists: Slate's chief political correspondent John Dickerson, CBS News' White House correspondent Chip Reid and the Washington Post's congressional reporter Shailagh Murray. The position needed filling because Biden's then-communications director Jay Carney (Time's former Washington bureau chief) was being promoted to White House press secretary. In the end, Biden hired Murray for the position after Reid and Dickerson declined.
All that talk of the White House courting journalists for PR jobs ruffled some feathers in the right-wing blogosphere. "Is the mainstream media the Obama administration's farm team?" asked Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard. Conservative blogger Robert Stacy McCain was similarly miffed.
In some cases, it's not unfair to ask non-partisan newspapers about their policies regarding journalists switching teams and working for the White House. Are journalists required to notify their editors when they're seeking a political position? If so, are they prohibited from covering certain stories if there's a conflict of interest? We asked The Washington Post when Shailagh Murray was hired to be Biden's chief PR flack since Murray was covering the White House a mere two weeks before she was hired by the White House. Given the background checks and political vetting involved in completing a White House hire, it seemed like there could be some overlap. Murray declined to comment to The Atlantic Wire. The Post did as well. Asked if the newspaper had any policy with regards to conflict of interest, Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton said, "I find nothing in the handbook that addresses this directly or indirectly."