A ‘revolving door’ that turns both ways

Updated
A 'revolving door' that turns both ways
A 'revolving door' that turns both ways
Gage Skidmore/Flickr

It came as something of a surprise yesterday when Richard Stengel, the managing editor of Time, announced that he’s stepping down from the magazine to become under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs at the State Department. The news, naturally, comes as proof to Erick Erickson that “the media will never treat conservatives fairly.”

There is a revolving door between the media and leftwing politics that rarely exists on the right. It shapes the world view of the members of the media and necessitates conservatives working even harder to get their opinions, views, and stories heard.

From there, Erickson published a meandering list of prominent media figures who made the transition from a major news outlet to a position in the Obama administration, which the Fox News personality sees as proof of something nefarious. Oddly, Erickson also highlights media professionals who have spouses who work in government in some capacity, though I have no idea how that’s relevant. (Spouses don’t always agree on everything political. See Carville, James.)

Erickson’s list takes an even uglier twist when it includes friends like Greg Sargent and Ezra Klein, not because they’ve worked in Democratic politics, but because Erickson doesn’t seem to care for their work. This bolsters Erickson’s “revolving door” thesis because … wait, actually it doesn’t.

Of course, what the right chooses not to understand is the way in which the revolving door swings in more than one direction.

Earlier this year, for example, CBS News hired Condoleezza Rice as an on-air contributor. For members of the Bush/Cheney team, this was hardly an aberration – the Washington Post hired Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter to serve as a columnist, then hired another former Bush speechwriter, Marc Thiessen, to also serve as a columnist.

They join a lengthy roster of former Bush/Cheney officials who somehow managed to secure positions at major media outlets: Tony Snow (CNN), Frances Fragos Townsend (CNN), Ari Fleischer (CNN), Dana Perino (Fox News), Mary Matalin (CNN), Sara Taylor (MSNBC), Nicole Wallace (CBS News), Dan Bartlett (CBS News), Jeff Ballabon (CBS News), Tony Fratto (CNBC), Jimmy Orr (Los Angeles Times), Andrew Malcolm (Los Angeles Times), Juan Carlos Zarate (CBS News), and of course Karl Rove (Fox News, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal).

And these are just folks who come to mind if we’re being literal, and omit, for example, former chairmen of the Republican National Committee who’ve also made the transition to media professionals.

If we play by Erickson’s rules and start naming media figures who are (a) related to people who work in Republican politics; (b) have some tangential background working for a Republican policymaker; or (c) publish commentary that Republicans tend to like, I’d be writing the rest of the afternoon.

And don’t even get me started with the Sunday show guest lists, where Republican voices – John McCain, Peter King, Newt Gingrich, Mike Rogers, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul – dominate to an embarrassing degree.

Erickson concluded, “Conservatives must work much harder than liberals to cut through the media bias.” Are folks supposed to take this seriously?

The broader point is that major news organizations tend to hire professionals who will contribute value to the outlet. Erickson thinks he has proof of a revolving door between the media and Democratic politics; I can point to all kinds of examples that point in the opposite direction. What does this prove? Not a whole lot – there’s just no grand conspiracy to be found.

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A 'revolving door' that turns both ways

Updated