Thursday, July 02, 2009

WaPo - Access for Sale - Updated

In the wake of the ongoing hissy fit among of the "serious" journalists of unearned privilege about Obama's audacity in "controlling the media," this morning's revelation of the WaPo's pay to play scheme is especially amusing.
For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post is offering lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to "those powerful few" — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and the paper’s own reporters and editors.
Yes for only 25K for one, or the bargain rate of 250K for all 11, you too can attend "an evening with the right people" at an "off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth" and "can alter the debate." The flyer promises intimate access to key Obama administration and congressional leaders and of course, the WaPo's own crack team of impeccably objective reporters and editors. First "WaPo Salon" is titled, "Health-Care Reform: Better or Worse for Americans? The reform and funding debate." Oddly, although I've been tirelessly blogging about the subject, I didn't get an invite to this "unique opportunity for stakeholders to hear and be heard." Surely, an oversight.

Unsurprisingly, the news lit up the Memeorandum board immediately and the WaPo newsroom was quick to respond.
The flier circulated this morning came out of a business division for conferences and events, and the newsroom was unaware of such communication. It went out before it was properly vetted, and this draft does not represent what the company’s vision for these dinners are, which is meant to be an independent, policy-oriented event for newsmakers. As written, the newsroom could not participate in an event like this.

We do believe there is an opportunity to have a conferences and events business, and that The Post should be leading these conversations in Washington, big or small, while maintaining journalistic integrity. The newsroom will participate where appropriate.
In other words, the flier makes it sound so sordid, but they still want to do it. I wonder what exact format would allow the WaPo to sell access to itself and major stakeholders and still maintain their "journalistic integrity?" And how is it they can guarantee attendance by government officials involved in making policy? Can't wait for Dana Milbank and Fred Hiatt to explain it to us.

Update: Dinner canceled due to bad press.
Weymouth knew of the plans to host small dinners at her home and to charge lobbying and trade organizations for participation. But, one of the executives said, she believed that there would be multiple sponsors, to minimize any appearance of charging for access, and that the newsroom would be in charge of the scope and content of any dinners in which Post reporters and editors participated.

Brauchli said he had been involved in discussions, stretching back to last year, about newsroom participation in conferences of the sort commonly staged by major news organizations.
Not clear to me how selling more tickets makes the concept any less unethical. Still pay to play so matter how you word the flyers.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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Blogger Ruth said...

How the mighty have fallen. This is pathetic, and yet another proof that heredity job promotion is the pump primer for corruption..

12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

The thing is, I'm sure this happens often with more than just the WaPo. This just became a story because the flier was so open about the influence peddling.

1:49:00 PM  

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