A bombshell report this morning revealed the existence of flyers announcing a new series of "salons" organized by the Washington Post that would offer lobbyists, for $25,000 a pop, the chance to engage in spirited but nonconfrontational discussions with the "powerful few" capable of "alter[ing] the debate" (presumably in their favor). The bigwigs that lobbyists could expect to meet (at the home of the Post's CEO and publisher) would include Obama administration officials, members of Congress and, oh, what's this? even the Post's own reporters. Clearly, the paper is trying to find new ways to make some money, but at what cost? Is it worth damaging the integrity of an illustrious, supposedly unbiased news organization? Some people at the Post certainly think so. The reporters themselves not so much.
After the story caused an "uproar" in the newsroom, executive editor Marcus Brauchli e-mailed his staff to ensure them that they were still, primarily, journalists:
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.
We like how he leaves the door open to their participation at the end, while singling out the "language" in the flyer. A couple of tweaks to the copy here and there, and this is something they can get behind.
Washington Post sells access, $25,000+ [Politico]