“Media, administration deal with conflicts,” the Washington Post reports:
It’s all but a journalistic commandment: Thou shalt not have a vested interest in the story you’re covering. Otherwise, a personal entanglement could color a reporter’s neutrality or cloud public perceptions of fairness. An obvious area of concern: when a journalist’s relatives or spouse is part of the news.
So what to make of all the family ties between the news media and the Obama administration?
According to the news media, nothing much at all. News organizations say they’ve worked out the conflicts — real or potential — involving their journalists. But that hasn’t stopped a few eyebrows from being raised.
The list of prominent news people with close White House relations includes ABC News President Ben Sherwood, who is the brother of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a top national-security adviser to President Obama. His counterpart at CBS, news division president David Rhodes, is the brother of Benjamin Rhodes, a key foreign-policy specialist. CNN’s deputy Washington bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, is married to Tom Nides, who until earlier this year was deputy secretary of state under Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Further, White House press secretary Jay Carney’s wife is Claire Shipman, a veteran reporter for ABC. And NPR’s White House correspondent, Ari Shapiro, is married to a lawyer, Michael Gottlieb, who joined the White House counsel’s office in April.
Conservatives have suggested that these relationships may play a role in how the media cover Obama, specifically in their supposedly timid approach to reporting on the White House’s handling of the terrorist attacks last year on American facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The National Review Online recently claimed that such ties amount to professional incest: “The inbreeding among Obama’s court and its press corps is more like one of those ‘I’m my own grandpaw’ deals,” wrote NRO’s Mark Steyn in a posting titled “Band of Brothers.”
Such insinuations make media types bristle. They take exception to the notion that complicated judgments about the news — often made by others within an organization — have anything to do with personal favoritism or familial relationships. The critics, they say, can’t point to any direct evidence that such relationships have affected the amount or tone of their news coverage.
Of course, the Post has some pretty obvious conflicts of interest itself, when it comes to its relationship with an administration its own ombudsperson admitted that “most Post journalists voted for” in 2008.