So, Shailagh Murray, when did you start dickering with Biden for a job? 

Isn't this interesting! Today we learn that Vice President Joe Biden's new communications director will be Shailagh Murray of The Washington Post.

At the Post, Murray covered politicians like ... Vice President Joe Biden.

She becomes the second journalist to depart a mainstream media institution to flak for Biden. The previous occupant of the position Murray will move into next month was Jay Carney, the former Time Magazine heavy who recently became President Obama's press secretary.

Curiously, it was the Post, not Biden, that first broke the news of Murray's approaching move to the right-hand of the man who is one heart beat away from the presidency. And the Post sounded rather proud of Murray's move.

Normally, these kinds of appointments are announced either simultaneously or by the hiring official. Also, while best wishes to the departing colleague aren't unusal, profusions of praise are because of what happens when a journo goes over to Dark Side of public relations - they become mouthpieces with agendas, the very opposite of what they were supposed to be in the newsroom.

That's why this latest development in Washington's constantly revolving door is sparking some uncomfortable questions.

Like these from Judicial Watch's Tom Fitton:

"This reporter has been covering the budget battle (and Biden’s involvement). Did the job just fall out of the sky today? How long have the negotiations been taking place? Was she covering a White House from which she was simultaneously seeking a job? Was she covering politicians adverse to the White House while she was negotiating a job with the White House?"

The answer to Fitton's last question is definitely yes, as seen in this recent piece pointed out by Fitton on one of the administration's Tea Party-inspired critics in Congress.

And the answer to timing of the negotiations question must also be yes, since the process by which these high visibility positions in government always involves multiple interviews, reference checking, and other time-consuming activities.

Which raises yet more questions:  Murray's forthcoming departure was announced by the Post's national editor, Kevin Merida who described her as "a master at explaining complex legislation and the unpredictable twists and turns of Congress. Her sophisticated understanding of issues and an ability to bring big ideas to our pages have served readers well.”

No doubt that's all true, but when exactly did Merida first learn one of his top reporters was negotiating for a job with a key player on the political news beat she was covering for the Post? And what did he do when he found out? Take her off the beat? Read her the riot act? Give her an updated copy of his own resume?

Lots of attention is justifiably paid by journalists in this town to the revolving door between Congress and the K Street lobbyists. There is even a law requiring a cooling-off period that bars departing senators and representatives from coming back to lobby their former colleagues for two years.

If nothing else, perhaps the Biden-Murray-Carney-Washington Post-Time-President Obama - as well as the analogous revolving door relationships involving journalists who go in and out of Republican administrations -  suggests it's time for American journalism to adopt a cooling off period like that between Congress and K Street.

 

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Mark Tapscott

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