MediaWatch: October 1996

Vol. Ten No. 10

Revolving Door: Clinton: Moral Leader

The chief White House speechwriter got his job because candidate Bill Clinton so liked his reporting. In the September 23 Weekly Standard, Christopher Caldwell relayed why chief speechwriter Donald Baer, who had been Assistant Managing Editor of U.S. News, was tapped in 1994: "Clinton liked the articles Baer contributed to U.S. News during the 1992 campaign" since "Baer wrote with extreme empathy about Clinton's background."

Caldwell quoted a journalistic colleague: "'Being of the South and still being rooted there, yet being driven and ambitious enough to prove oneself in the larger world -- the two of them have a lot in common.' While Baer has always been a loyal Democrat, he's not necessarily a liberal. Like Clinton, he has an idiosyncratic, instinctive, generally progressive politics that winds up at beyond-left-and-rightism."

Beyond ideology maybe, but not beyond idolizing Clinton. Caldwell learned: "This enthusiasm can appear like ideological non-commitment or caginess. One New Democrat who met Baer at a dinner last year described him as `bland beyond description, a fount of cliches. `Clinton was the moral leader of the Universe,' and all that.'"

Up and Out at U.S. News

James Fallows took the helm at U.S. News in late September. The new Editor promoted one veteran of Democratic politics while another decided to resign. Now in the number two slot as Managing Editor: Harrison Rainie, an Assistant Managing Editor since 1988 when he jumped from the office of New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan where he had spent most of 1987 as the Democrat's Chief-of-Staff....

Deciding to depart: Kathryn Bushkin, Director of Editorial Administration since 1984 when she put in a stint as Press Secretary with Gary Hart's presidential effort. Bushkin has joined a PR firm.

NBC's on the Mark

A professional flack for a liberal Senator is the newest member of the on-air reporting team at the NBC News Washington bureau. Alexandra Marks, Press Secretary to Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) from late 1993 to mid-1995, signed on in early September. Before joining Kerry and again since 1995 Marks worked as a Christian Science Monitor reporter. But she's not new to TV. Prior to flacking for Kerry, Marks reported for the Monitor's since-failed cable channel and for the 10 O'Clock News on WGBH-TV, Boston's PBS station.

Democratic Cable

Among the on-air talent brought aboard MSNBC, the new NBC News cable channel in partnership with Microsoft, were a Clinton speechwriter and an aide in a Democratic presidential run. Political correspondent Eric Liu composed speeches for Secretary of State Warren Christopher in 1993 before becoming, at age 25, the youngest speechwriter for President Clinton. The New York Times reported that Liu moved to the White House speechwriting office in November 1993 where he toiled until June 1994....

Chip Reid, hired to cover the White House and Capitol Hill, was general counsel in 1987 for Democrat Joe Biden's unsuccessful run. For the previous four years Reid had been chief investigator for the Senate Judiciary Committee's Democratic Senators. After Biden, Reid accepted a producer slot with ABC News and was a reporter for Washington, D.C.'s ABC affiliate, WJLA, when tapped by MSNBC.