White House Press Secretaries Who Became Journalists

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

Not quite a year ago — May 2022 — Jen Psaki stepped away from her role as the White House press secretary for President Joe Biden. At the time, there were already rumors that she was going to do what so many White House press secretaries do: television.

With a sterling reputation as an unflappable press secretary, previous TV experience and a quick-on-her-feet sense of humor and repartee, Psaki seemed perfect for television.

Almost as soon as she left the White House, the announcement was made: Psaki would join MSNBC as a host and commentator. She has been commentating all along. But now she will be a host.

MSNBC announced that Psaki will host a weekly talk show starting March 19. The show — “Inside With Jen Psaki” — will air Sundays at noon. That’s an interesting time slot that will put Psaki in the vicinity of some of the iconic Sunday morning news shows such as “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation.”

However, Psaki hopes her show occasionally ventures outside the world of politics to also include celebrities and athletes. But you would think her strength — and why MSNBC signed her to begin with — is her political expertise and connections.

How will she treat the current administration, i.e. her former boss?

Some former press secretaries went on to become respected journalists: Pierre Salinger, George Stephanopoulos and Dana Perino. Diane Sawyer also worked in White House communications. All went on to provide, mostly, fair and appropriate journalism.

Will Psaki be like one of them? Or will she be like Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who has continued being a right-wing mouthpiece on Fox News?

Psaki told The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum, “I’m very conscious of the fact that people know who I am because I was standing behind a podium speaking on behalf of Joe Biden. I am not going to gratuitously attack him, nor am I going to gratuitously applaud him. If he deserves applause, I will applaud him. If he deserves critique, I will critique him.”

Then again, while Fox News viewers likely are OK with McEnany’s pro-conservative commentary, perhaps MSNBC viewers might be willing to give Psaki a little more leeway if her commentary drifts left. Psaki reached out to Stephanopoulos, who worked for President Bill Clinton, for advice.

Stephanopoulos said he told Psaki, “The balancing act is, how are you consistent with your past work and your past beliefs, and still constructive for the audience. That’s applicable then, today and tomorrow.”

Psaki won’t just do a Sunday show. She also will write a regular column for the network’s morning newsletter, “MSNBC Daily,” and is developing a new streaming and social show, both set to launch this spring. She also will continue to provide commentary for NBC News and MSNBC on big news stories, especially election coverage.

“I am not going on television to be a mouthpiece,” she told Grynbaum.

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