Chris Cuomo of CNN ended his interview with former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum (D-FL) with, “welcome to the CNN family” on his Jan. 29 broadcast.
He did so because the former mayor of Tallahassee recently took on a political commentator position at the well-known news organization. Gillum now joins the large group of former politicians taking part in the revolving door of the news media.
This practice is one of many that hurts the mainstream media’s credibility.
Politicians with further aspirations of political offices often take advantage of the fame they earn on campaigns in order to turn a profit in the short run, while at the same time maintaining their status as a household name.
Gillum likely has plans to run for office again, whether it be challenging Marco Rubio’s (FL-R) Senate seat in 2022 or a congressional seat in 2020. Politico reported that a democratic close to Gillum said: “He 100 percent hasn’t ruled out a run for president, either.” Whichever office he eventually runs for he wants to ensure he maintains his support in the state of Florida.
Gillum is not at all the first politician to do this.
After losing her Senate seat in 2018, Claire McCaskill (MO-D) joined the ranks of MSNBC as a political analyst.
This is not at all a democratic phenomenon either.
Fox News was happy to hire the likes of Former Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Jason Chaffetz (UT-R). CNN was also happy to pay for the opinions of former Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum (PA-R).
What does including all of these political insiders do to a news organization? What happens when these politicians get back in the game? Does the dynamic between the politicians and the journalist change when they are employed by the same “family”?
The answer should be obvious.
This isn’t about partisan politics or the character of individual journalists, this is about the culture that is established when the wall between government and the news media is taken down.
It is natural to get to know your coworkers and to form relationships with them, but if it is the media’s job to hold politicians accountable, the public should not give them a pass when they make a habit of rubbing shoulders with the very people they are supposed to be holding accountable.
The Pew Research Center reported that only 21 percent of Americans have “a lot of trust” in the news media. Much of the public sees large media organizations as a lobbying arm on behalf of particular parties, whether those concerns were justified or not.
Hiring decisions like this only support that narrative.
If mass-media organizations want to improve their public perception, they need to stop hiring politicians like Gillum and Santorum and rely on the people who will actually act as watchdogs for elected officials.
Jared Sellick is a junior majoring in political science.