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Listening Post

Revolving doors: Media and politics

We examine the relationship that exists between the news business and the world of politics in Washington.

Last updated: 26 Jan 2014 14:13
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Journalists in Washington are supposed to know what is happening in the corridors of power. And there are also those who quit their jobs covering news, to work in politics, and walk those corridors themselves - it is a well-worn path.

 ... the journalists who I think did the most harm were the journalists who were closest to the powerful sources who were feeding them information. The journalists who did the best work, who were more confrontational, who were more sceptical, were the furthest removed from the corridors of power.

Peter Hart, FAIR

Switch on the news in the US – that tension between the work of journalists and messaging by political operatives is vanishing. Nowadays it is often the case that the same person who once shaped policy is shaping what news audiences are told.

Since President Obama took office, a record number of journalists have taken up jobs in the Obama administration. 

"The reason there’s, there’s so much sort of cross pollination between politics and media is frankly these are things that people on both sides are trained to do, they’re trained to go before cameras, they are trained to talk to strangers and talk in a very public [sphere] and act in a very public way," argues Mark Leibovich, the author of This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral - Plus Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America's Gilded Capital.

Politicians and journalists are supposed to have an adversarial relationship. So what is at stake when the line between politics and journalism becomes so blurred - with so much two-way traffic moving back and forth between the two?

"It’s one of these situations where you realise that maybe TV journalism is a little bit more like acting," explains Peter Hart of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). "That the people who make the hiring and firing decisions saw him as someone who could perform on camera, and decided that the way he performed as a spokesperson could translate into journalism."

The Listening Post’s Gouri Sharma looks at some of the implications of the revolving-door relationship that exists between the news business and the world of politics in Washington.

Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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Al Jazeera
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