There are some alternate titles that came to mind as I prepared to write this, but since some of TNN’s readers are employees of the Washington Post – some of very long standing indeed – I thought it best to go with the least abrasive one that I thought of.
Even so, it’s rather dismaying to write this.
This morning, Politico.com reported on the contents of a flyer received by a lobbyist in the health-care field. Parts of the flyer read as follows:
“Underwriting Opportunity: An evening with the right people can alter the debate. Underwrite and participate in this intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth … Bring your organization’s CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama Administration and Congressional leaders …
“Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No. The relaxed setting in the home of Katharine Weymouth assures it. What is guaranteed is a collegial evening, with Obama Administration officials, Congress members, business leaders, advocacy leaders and other select minds typically on the guest list of 20 or less. …
“Offered at $25,000 per sponsor, per Salon. Maximum of two sponsors per Salon. Underwriters’ CEO or Executive Director participates in the discussion. Underwriters appreciatively acknowledged in printed invitations and at the dinner. Annual series sponsorship of 11 Salons offered at $250,000 … Hosts and Discussion Leaders … Health-care reporting and editorial staff members of The Washington Post … An exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will actually get it done. … A Washington Post Salon … July 21, 2009 6:30 p.m.”
That “salon” has been called off, along with all its planned successors, by Ms. Weymouth after Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli issued a memo stating that his newsroom would not participate in the project in any way, and after a storm of shocked and angry responses from news sites, blogs, and Twitterers in the media everywhere.
(Though there was quite a bit of humor among the Tweets, some quite pointed. A sample, with my comments in brackets:
For a mere $10K, Tom Sietsema will finally review Mrs.K’s in Silver Spring. [You’d have to live a half-mile from Mrs. K’s, like I do, to really get that one.]
For only $10,000 the WaPo will review your stimulus package and they won’t mention that it promotes socialism! [No guesses about which Washington paper that Twitterer would cancel his or her subscription to, given a choice.]
WaPo is the new DC Madam. Let’s see her client list. [Later in the week I will look at one name that, seemingly, might be included on such a list. Hint: that name has been the subject of a dozen of my previous posts.]
For $500K, Charles Krauthammer will write a series of columns advocating war with a country of your choosing. [How about 25 gees to argue the case for war with Moldova?]
Ta-Nehisi Coates is among a host of former Post writers expressing their reactions to the news. He says, among other things:
I’m sure in the coming days we will find out that this was the brainchild of Weymouth or one of the other suits that have little if anything to do with the daily news operation. But that’s what makes it so reckless and irresponsible. With one poorly-worded flier they have left their editorial staff vulnerable to questioning as to whether sponsors will have an influence on their reporting, questions that no reporter who is simply doing their job should ever have to face. I have a great deal of sympathy for the Post’s editorial department and I applaud their response. But someone upstairs should have to answer for this[….]
But who will answer for it? Who ombuds the ombudsperson, so to speak?