MediaWatch: October 5, 1998

Vol. Twelve No. 17

Revolving Door: NBC, ABC, CNN...the White House

When President Clinton tapped Joe Lockhart in late July to replace Mike McCurry as Press Secretary as of October 5, ABC's Peter Jennings didn't tell viewers how Lockhart used to work for ABC News. In a story for CNN, Wolf Blitzer also skip-ped Lockhart's time at the cable network.

As The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz noted in a September 9 profile, "he will be the first White House press secretary since Ron Nessen in the Ford administration to have had a recent career as a newsman. The son of journalists and the husband of a longtime ABC producer, Lockhart was spinning through the revolving door between media and politics long before that phrase became fashionable." Indeed, he has bounc-ed back and forth since his father, an executive with NBC News, landed him a volunteer spot in Carter's 1980 reelection campaign.

As recounted by Kurtz, Lockhart "left to become an NBC foot soldier, writing for the network's internal wire at the Democratic National Convention." After the convention he got a paying job with the campaign.

By 1984 he had "climbed aboard Walter Mondale's presidential campaign. He was responsible for the care and feeding of the network cameramen and technicians, riding with them on the 'zoo plane' and helping them find backdrops for better shots."

Mondale's loss led Lockhart to a Press Secretary position for Democratic Senator Paul Simon. But he soon crossed back as an assignment editor for ABC News in Chicago, later taking the same title in CNN's Washington bureau. Within a couple of years, he signed aboard the 1988 Dukakis presidential effort as a traveling press aide.

When his wife Laura Logan, Deputy Press Secretary for John Glenn's 1984 presidential run, was transferred to London by her employer, ABC News, Lockhart followed and landed a slot with the nemesis of liberals: Rupert Murdoch. Kurtz recounted: "He applied for a producer's job at British-based Sky News and was stunned when executives there wanted him for on-air work....Soon his daily business reports were running back home on Fox, albeit at 5 a.m. Sky News dispatched him to Washington to report on the Gulf War, but...his program was later canceled." Back in the U.S. he worked for the Clinton campaign, then assumed the Deputy Press Secretary slot at the White House.