James Carney: Profile of White House press secretary

By Katie Connolly
BBC News, Washington

image captionJay Carney (left) will replace Robert Gibbs (right) as the White House's new press secretary

James "Jay" Carney once held one of the most enviable jobs in the Washington media: bureau chief for the award-winning staple of American journalism, Time magazine.

Soon, he will hold one of the most scrutinized jobs in the country: White House press secretary.

The jump from reporter to spokesman isn't such an unusual one.

But to go from journalist to one of the world's most watched media spokesman in just over two years is quite a feat - especially after Mr Carney led a team of Time reporters who covered the Obama presidential campaign in 2008.

The telegenic Mr Carney makes the move after serving as US Vice-President Joseph Biden's spokesman since just after the November 2008 election.

He quickly earned the respect of both the Washington press corps - many of whom he has long-standing relationships with - and the Obama administration.

When Robert Gibbs announced his departure from the post, Mr Carney's name was one of the first to be circulated as a potential replacement.

Mr Biden was reported to have lobbied the president to appoint Mr Carney to the position, after being impressed with his work.

Mr Carney has been credited with improving Mr Biden's media image.

Journalists who once sniggered over gaffes made by the garrulous Mr Biden have, at Mr Carney's encouragement, focused more on his contributions to the Obama administration.

The president invited Mr Carney, an amicable, quietly spoken man, to "audition" for the role several days before finally choosing him.

But he has big shoes to fill. His predecessor Robert Gibbs had worked for Mr Obama since his days in the Senate, and is one of the president's closest advisers and friends.

Journalists knew Mr Gibbs had the president's ear, and were confident that his comments accurately reflected Mr Obama's views.

By contrast, Mr Carney is not part of Mr Obama's inner circle.

However, several figures, including senior advisers David Axelrod and Jim Messina, will soon be leaving the White House. And Bill Daley, the new chief of staff is similarly an outsider to Obama's tight-knit circle.

Those developments will perhaps play in Mr Carney's favour.

TV pundit

Mr Carney was born in Virginia and studied Russian and European Studies at prestigious Yale University before landing a reporting job at the Miami Herald.

He joined Time magazine in 1988 and two years later moved to Russia as a foreign correspondent. He covered the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 1993, he was assigned to the White House beat, covering the Clinton administration.

He reported on White House for over a decade, and was one of a small pool of reporters travelling with President George W Bush aboard Air Force One on September 11, 2001.

He was promoted to Time Bureau Chief in 2005.

While working for Time, Mr Carney was a regular political commentator on American television - experience that is sure to come in handy in his new role.

Mr Carney's wife is also a celebrated journalist, ABC correspondent Claire Shipman. Ms Shipman is the co-author of Womenomics, an examination of the economic contributions of working women, with the BBC's Katty Kay.

Mr Carney has said that after two decades at Time he was looking for new challenges. Unfortunately for him, those new challenges are less lucrative - the White House pay scale tops out well below what Mr Carney would have earned at Time.

More on this story