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Former 'Time' Journalist To Be Obama Press Secretary


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

The White House is changing its public face. Jay Carney, who's been the spokesman for the vice president, will be the new press secretary, replacing Robert Gibbs. Carney was named yesterday. And NPR's Ari Shapiro has this profile.

ARI SHAPIRO: In a White House where people wear their Washington outsider status as a badge of honor, Jay Carney has always been different. While the outgoing press secretary Robert Gibbs grew up in Alabama, Carney was born in the Washington suburbs. He spent much of his working life here as a reporter. And his former colleagues say he has a deep understanding of the city.

When Carney was Washington Bureau Chief at Time Magazine, Ana Marie Cox was Washington editor of the magazine's website. She's now with GQ, and she describes Carney as funny, charming, and smart.

Ms. ANA MARIE COX (GQ): You know, Gibbs has a certain degree of contempt for the press that I think is hard to disguise. He has open contempt for the press, and I think that Jay does not.

SHAPIRO: That's partly because Carney was a member of the press for so long. He only left in 2008 to become communications director for then Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

Over two decades at Time, he reported from Moscow, Panama, and Havana. But he was best known for his work in Washington. On C-SPAN a few years ago, he described the role of the White House press secretary from the view of a White House correspondent.

Mr. JIM CARNEY (Press secretary, White House): There is a certain amount of information that the press secretary wants to convey. There's another pocket of information that he's willing to convey if, I believe, if provoked, or led that way by a question, or tricked, and you want to get to that.

SHAPIRO: He described the tightrope the press secretary must walk, between the president on one hand and the press corps on the other. And in a bit of self-deprecation, he offered an opinion on how he might someday do in the job.

Mr. CARNEY: The best press secretaries were very deft at serving, both their boss - the president, the white house, the administration - and the press. It's a tricky job. I'm sure I wouldn't be any good at it - but not disservicing either side.

SHAPIRO: In that same interview he described the luxury of working at a weekly magazine without daily or hourly deadlines. But that news cycle has changed dramatically. Just about everybody in the White House press corps now files online updates all day long. At a party for liberal bloggers in 2007, Carney spoke favorably of that growing online world.

Mr. CARNEY: I think that the blogosphere's critique of the mainstream media has been overwhelmingly helpful. And I think that it's made - by and large made major media pay a lot more attention to a lot of details that they should be paying attention to.

SHAPIRO: Carney's elevation was part of a broader change involving more than a dozen staffers that White House chief of staff Bill Daley described in a message to employees yesterday.

Daley is a new face at the White House himself. President Obama is trying to restructure his administration halfway through the term. The goal, according to Daley's memo, is to bring greater clarity to our structure and roles and enhance coordination and collaboration.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.