Why He Matters
Carney used to hold one of the best journalism jobs in Washington. As the D.C. bureau chief for Time magazine, he enjoyed prime access to movers and shakers in the nation’s capital.
But perhaps reflecting the turbulent times for print media outlets, Carney left reporting in December 2008 to work as communications director for Biden, making him the latest high-profile journalist to join the Obama administration. Linda Douglass, a former television reporter for ABC, joined President Barack Obama’s campaign and is now a member of his inauguration planning team.
Carney’s decision raised eyebrows and brought a new round of charges that the press was in the bag for Obama. But Carney told reporters he has accomplished what he hoped in his 20-year career at Time, and that he is looking for new challenges.
Carney has reported from Havana, Panama, Moscow and Washington. He was one of a handful of reporters who travelled with President George W. Bush on Air Force One after Sept. 11. Politico reporter Mike Allen called Carney “a middle-of-the-road, well-connected journalist with establishment instincts.”(1)
After graduation, he took a job as a reporter for the Miami Herald. He moved to Time in 1989 as an international correspondent. He travelled to Havana to cover Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit in 1989 and reported on the U.S. military operation in Panama the same year.
In 1990, he moved to Russia to report on the collapse of the Soviet Union. He joined Time’s Washington bureau in 1993 to cover President Bill Clinton. His impeachment coverage in particular was widely praised. Carney travelled with Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2000 presidential campaign.
He once again made daily trips to the White House to cover Bush when he was elected. On September 11, 2001, Carney was one of a handful of reporters who traveled aboard Air Force One with the leader.
Carney was named assistant bureau chief of the Time’s Washington bureau in 2003, the same year he won the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the presidency. He became the magazine’s bureau chief in September 2005, where he helped oversee the publication’s migration to the Internet. He was one of the first mainstream journalists to blog.
Carney jokes that he hopes to write for Sports Illustrated in his next life.(2)
Carney was probably one of the better-known reporters during the 2008 presidential campaign, reporting for Time, and appearing as a talking head on CNN and ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
Time announced Carney’s departure in early December 2008. The Obama transition team announced he would be joining Biden soon after.
Biden is known for his verbal gaffes and slip-ups, and his communications director will have to keep the Vice President in line. In fact, Carney has observed this himself. He once said Biden is “incredibly prone to say the wrong thing” and told a reporter on MSNBC that Biden has said the wrong thing “throughout his career… he's smart, but he speaks -- shoots from the hip.”(3)
Carney has occasionally inflamed conservatives, as when he attacked McCain spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace for defending the lack of access to Gov. Sarah Palin (R) during the 2008 presidential campaign. Carney wrote that "in her smug dismissal of the media's role in asking questions of the candidates, Wallace was really showing contempt not for reporters, but for voters.”(4)
Carney is hailed as one of the first mainstream journalists to make full use of the Internet. He helped launched one of the earliest Washington-based political blogs run by a major publication, Swampland, where he posted frequently and employed an often casual tone.
However, Carney has made enemies with some of the netroots folks on the left. In one case, he compared George W. Bush’s political problems with Iraq to Bill Clinton’s impeachment, describing both as “distractions.” Bloggers and commenters pounced, attacking Carney’s facts and position. He snapped back, saying the left “is as full of unthinking Ditto-heads as Limbaugh-land."(5)
Carney is married to Claire Shipman, the senior correspondent for ABC News.
In his 15 years in Washington, he has made a series of high-profile friends, including Antony Blinken, Biden’s national security adviser who convinced him to take the job.
He will work with Elizabeth Alexander and Annie Tomasini in Biden’s press shop.
Allen, Mike, “Time’s Jay Carney Will be Biden Aide,” Politico, Dec. 15, 2008
Kurtz, Harold, “Time's Carney to Be Biden Press Aide,” Washington Post, Dec. 16, 2008
Carney, Jay, “No Questions Please. We’ll tell you what you need to know,” Swampland, Sept. 4, 2008
Perlstein, Rick, “Reality Bytes: Bloggers upstage the mainstream press yet again,” New Republic, Feb. 7, 2007