Jen Psaki told the Semafor Media Summit on Monday that she considers herself to be a journalist.
In a conversation with Semafor editor-in-chief Ben Smith, the former White House press secretary drew parallels between her time in the Biden administration and her new turn as an anchor on MSNBC.
“Journalism has changed dramatically,” she said. “I’m, of course, an example of that, right? And even when I was in the White House, working in government, it really was already all on a spectrum. It wasn’t just the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, and then everything else wasn’t considered part of journalism. It’s all a big, broad scope of things. And so to me, journalism is providing information to the public, helping make things clearer, explaining things.”
Initially, Psaki’s hiring prompted some concern among the ranks of NBC News’ reporters in Washington, D.C. Many privately expressed discomfort that her hiring would create or increase the perception that the network was too close to the Biden White House.
Critics also said it was another example of the revolving door between cable news and political communications: Numerous communications officials from the previous five White House’s have all landed hosting or analyst gigs in television news.
But since joining MSNBC last fall, Psaki has become one of the network’s primary on-air personalities. While she has not yet seriously broken with her former White House colleagues, Psaki has taken pages from the playbooks of some of her MSNBC colleagues, getting interview and show programming advice from hosts including Andrea Mitchell and Nicole Wallace, who also went from the world of political communications to cable television.
During her interview with Smith, she said she queried former George W. Bush press secretary Dana Perino and former Clinton comms guru George Stephanopoulos for advice about how to transition from a White House communications role to a television news job.
And the cult following Psaki earned among some liberals as White House Press Secretary has also transitioned into ratings success. In its first several weeks on the air, the former White House press secretary’s weekend show has been a rare weekend ratings hit for the network, racking up over a million viewers in multiple weeks in what is normally a throw-away time slot.