Conservative commentators are going wild over the small number of journalists who have chosen to go into the Obama administration. It's proof, they say, of the media's liberal bias. Michelle Malkin goes into a rant on this.
We're in economic chaos and print media is in free fall. I have no doubt that if John McCain had won, you would have seen some journalists head into the administration. In case, you missed it, no shortage of reporters love the guy.
As for the bias of those who've gone into the administration, let's take them one by one. There's my old Time colleague, Jay Carney, who is working for Biden. I don't think I'm giving away a state secret to say that more than a decade ago, as I recall, McCain had some interest in hiring Carney and the two have been friendly personally even while occasionally battling it out in print. Carney is probably one of the least partisan people I know. Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune, after all, went to work for Ray LaHood, the Republican Secretary of Transportation from Illinois who she knew well from writing for the state's largest daily. Peter Gosselin of the L.A. Times, the widower of the late and much liked New York Times reporter, Robin Toner, who passed away recently, should hardly be begrudged for giving up the maelstrom of the Tribune company and Sam Zell to go work for Tim Geithner who was Hank Paulson's partner as much as he is Barack Obama's. In other words, big deal.
And even if they'd gone to work for more partisan figures or had more partisan leanings themselves, so what? I'm not sure it's a bad thing.
Besides, I'm of the school that service in government is good for journalists. I worked at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights after college and the experience has always given me a more supple understanding of how government works. Many of my colleagues from the center-left The Washington Monthly where I began my career in journalism--James Fallows, Walter Shapiro, Paul Glastris, Steven Waldman and the magazine's founder, Charles Peters--have all worked in government.
I see no one on the right complaining about Michael Gerson having gone from U.S. News & World Report to the George W. Bush administration or William Safire's exodus from the Nixon administration to The New York Times. (I realize I'm conflating columnists and reporters here, but still, the point is the same.) Left and right can bitch about the MSM but I really don't think government service, whether it's Jay Carney or Tony Snow or Chris Matthews, should really be condemned. Geoff Morrell of ABC News went to work as the Pentagon spokesman under W. Now he's still there under Bob Gates who obviously stayed. Am I supposed to be alarmed by that?
Media bias is a perennial debate and I know how many TPM readers, I'm sure, see a right leaning bias in the MSM. But it strikes me that bias and government service are different questions, each worth parsing on their own.