UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 2, 2009

ENTROPY UPDATE: WASHINGTON POST EDITION



From: Marcus Brauchli
Sent: 07/02/2009 10:33 AM EDT
To: NEWS
Subject: Newsroom Independence

Colleagues,

A flyer was distributed this week offering an "underwriting opportunity" for a dinner on health-care reform, in which the news department had been asked to participate.

The language in the flyer and the description of the event preclude our participation.

We will not participate in events where promises are made that in exchange for money The Post will offer access to newsroom personnel or will refrain from confrontational questioning. Our independence from advertisers or sponsors is inviolable.

There is a long tradition of news organizations hosting conferences and events, and we believe The Post, including the newsroom, can do these things in ways that are consistent with our values.

Marcus


Howard Kurtz, Washington Post - Washington Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth today canceled plans for a series of policy dinners at her home after learning that marketing fliers offered lobbyists access to Obama administration officials, members of Congress and Post journalists in exchange for payments as high as $250,000.

"Absolutely, I'm disappointed," Weymouth, the chief executive of Washington Post Media, said in an interview. "This should never have happened. The fliers got out and weren't vetted. They didn't represent at all what we were attempting to do. We're not going to do any dinners that would impugn the integrity of the newsroom.". . .

Two Post executives familiar with the planning, who declined to be identified discussing internal planning, said the fliers appear to be the product of overzealous marketing executives. The fliers were overseen by Charles Pelton, a Post executive hired this year as a conference organizer. He was not immediately available for comment.

White House communications director Anita Dunn said today that The Post Co. had approached officials at the Health and Human Services Department to participate in a Weymouth dinner later this month. But, she said, "no senior Obama administration officials had accepted any invitation for the 'salon.'"

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.

But he said he made clear to the company's marketing officials that Post journalists would participate only if they could substantially control the nature of any such conference. Brauchli said he was blindsided by the wording of these fliers and that they are an embarrassment to the newspaper.

"We expressed our concerns and are disappointed by this outcome," he said of the previous meetings with Post executives. "I would ascribe it to a lack of effective communication internally." . . .

The aggressively worded pitch gives the impression that The Post is selling access to special interests, not just to administration officials and lawmakers -- which raises a separate set of questions about cozy relationships -- but to the people who produce the newspaper. The Post often raises questions about whether corporations, unions and trade associations receive access or favors in return for campaign contributions to political candidates.

Now the fliers have raised the question of whether the newspaper itself is pursuing such a strategy in exchange for hefty fees from special-interest groups. Access to Weymouth herself, a granddaughter of longtime publisher Katharine Graham who took over as chief executive of Washington Post Media last year, would be deemed valuable by those trying to influence The Post's editorial policies and news coverage.

The Post Co. lost $19.5 million in the first quarter and just completed its fourth round of early-retirement buyouts in several years, prompting Weymouth to look for new sources of revenue.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home