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 6, 2009

WASH POST NOT ALONE IN PAY TO PLAY NEWS SALONS

Politico - For embarrassed Washington Post executives - reeling from what the paper's own ombudsman called a public relations "disaster" over a flier promoting a "salon" for lobbyists to mingle with prominent newsmakers - there must be a sense of "Why us?"

The fact is the Post's clumsy effort to make money on its brand name and market its access to the powerful was a belated effort to follow in the steps of at least two other prominent news organizations: The Wall Street Journal and the Economist magazine.

The Journal, for instance, is charging a $7,500 for its two-day CEO Council in November, an elite gathering that will include the paper's top editors and high-profile speakers like Tony Blair, Rupert Murdoch, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. And for a few thousand dollars, The Economist can open the door to intimate off-the-record meet-and-greets with world leaders.

These events illustrate how the basic transaction - charging big fees to special interests to arrange private, special-access encounters with powerful people - that caused the Post this week to be excoriated is a more endemic practice than many people in political and media circles realize. Some watchdogs hope this week's Post scandal will help put an end to a hard-to-defend practice by revenue-hungry news organizations.

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