A common practice in American journalism has, once again, sparked outrage.
CNN recently announced the hiring of Sarah Isgur Flores to be “one of several editors” who will help “coordinate [political] coverage across TV and digital.”
Though a CNN spokesman explained to news site Splinter that Isgur “is not leading, overseeing, or running CNN’s political coverage,” the new hire will undoubtedly influence the cable network’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election.
Isgur has no professional journalism experience. But she’s been active politically, which may have qualified her for the job.
Isgur most recently worked as the spokesperson for the Department of Justice, where she disseminated information about the department’s new policies under President Trump and Attorney General Sessions in order to inform and influence journalistic coverage.
With a Harvard law degree, and jobs at the Republican National Committee and on numerous Republican campaigns, she was a reliable purveyor of administration spin.
CNN’s hiring of Isgur immediately provoked criticism.
“Elevating an unabashed partisan to a nonpartisan role is an obvious disservice to viewers at home, who count on the network’s independence,” wrote attorney and GQ columnist Jay Willis.
Media history shows that CNN is simply repeating a time-honored journalistic hiring practice. The revolving door from the White House to mainstream journalism, and from mainstream journalism to the White House, has been used so regularly that we often forget just how common it was – and remains.
The long list of political operatives who transitioned into journalism includes such well-known figures as Bill Moyers, William Safire, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos.
Perhaps the most illuminating example of this transition is Moyers. While working as a special assistant and press secretary for President Lyndon Johnson, Moyers proved to be one of the administration’s most antagonistic tacticians in dealing with the media.
In a memo he wrote about Vietnam War coverage, Moyers decried “the irresponsible and prejudiced coverage of men like Peter Arnett and Morley Safer, men who are not American and who do not have the basic American interest at heart.” Arnett was from New Zealand and Safer from Canada.