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Time For Another Blogger Ethics Panel: WaPo Selling Access

UPDATE: WaPo response below the fold.

Mike Allen of Politico actually has a blockbuster story about the total lack of journalistic ethics at the Washington Post:

For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post is offering lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to "those powerful few" ó Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and the paperís own reporters and editors.

The astonishing offer is detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he feels itís a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its ďhealth care reporting and editorial staff."

Frankly, this is simply incredible. Dana Milbank of the WaPo; he of the hissy fit over Nico Pitney asking a question at an Obama presser should have some comment on this. More . . .

From the WaPo offer:

"Underwriting Opportunity: An evening with the right people can alter the debate," says the one-page flier. "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 organizationís CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama administration and congressional leaders Ö

Here is an important question - what "key Obama Administration and Congressional players" was WaPo offering? And what were these "players" getting in return? This is simply scandalous.

Here is WaPo's response:

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 companyís 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.

(Emphasis supplied.) Let's be clear. The entire concept is a breach of journalistic ethics. It is inappropriate for ANY part of WaPo to be involved in such "salons" except as reporters reporting on the event. That they think it could even be appropriate just demonstrates the Washington Post simply has no journalistic ethics. Period.

Speaking for me only

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  • Display: Sort:
    God (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by lilburro on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:07:48 AM EST
    The first "Salon" is titled, "Health-Care Reform: Better or Worse for Americans? The reform and funding debate."

    Better or worse??

    Actually some so called (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by MO Blue on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:20:25 AM EST
    health care proposals could be worse than no reform at all. Legislation that winds up as a give away to the insurance companies, cuts services in programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and has no real benefit to the average person. I'm getting more and more concerned that is what we will wind up getting.

    Of course, this article proves that WaPo will not be a fair broker on this issue and others. They definitely have an agenda other than informing readers by reporting facts accurately. But then again, what else is new.

    Parent

    True what you say (none / 0) (#29)
    by lilburro on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:19:47 AM EST
    but I doubt that is their perspective on the better or worse issue...

    Parent
    Well I hope Milbank had a hissy fit (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:10:15 AM EST
    Just as I would hope that you would object to the Nico Pitney scenario....maybe you did and I missed it?

    The Obama administration and Congress should not participate in this Washington Post nonsense. But you know they probably will.

    We went through 8 years of stacked press.  What's new about this?

    Yeah (5.00 / 0) (#18)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:37:37 AM EST
    the Pitney thing was horrible- how dare the President take a question from a citizen of Iran, doesn't he know he's only supposed to answer questions about whether McCain et al affected his position on the nation, and if he's stopped smoking, substantive questions from non-beltway questioners undermine the true value of the Press- pointless minutia.

    Parent
    Missing the point (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by jbindc on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:48:14 AM EST
    The White House should not be calling up reporters before hand to invite them to a press confrence and tell them what kinds of questions to ask.  Doesn't matter if they knew the exact question or not (and of course, that would require you to believe the WH's version of Sgt. Schultz - "I know nothing." Perosonally, I find it hard to believe Rahm Emanuel engineered a scenario where he picked the person to ask the first question, but then had no idea what the question was going to be - he wouldn't open up the possibility that a reporter would ask a question that would throw Obama off script for the rest of the press conference.)

    Pitney being there and asking questions is fine, and he could have asked the greatest question in the world, but the point is, it wasn't ok when Bush planted people to ask certain questions, so it's not ok when Mr. Open and Transparent does it either.

    Parent

    If you believe Nico Pitney's (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by Anne on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:08:46 AM EST
    version of what happened and how it all came to be, I think it's not even close to being the nefarious thing you're making it out to be.

    My understanding is that the president called Pitney and invited him to attend the presser, because he knew Pitney had been doing a lot of communicating with Iranian residents experiencing the upheaval, and thought Pitney might have a question or questions from them.

    Pitney says he then sent out a tweet asking for questions.

    Pitney doesn't cover the WH, doesn't have the credentials he would need to attend a presser like this - so he was only going to get in by invitation.

    I'm sorry - this was not Jeff Gannon - who had press credentials issued by the WH - asking planted questions.  Hell, if you listen to the questions that are asked in these pressers, by people who are regular attendees, it's sometimes not uncommon to wonder if the fawning soft balls that get lobbed Obama's way were set up ahead of time.

    Was there a better way to handle it - would it have been better for Obama to invite Pitney to a special chat at the WH so Pitney could share the questions of the Iranian people?

    This is not at all the same as planting someone to ask pre-arranged questions.

    Parent

    I'm just saying (none / 0) (#28)
    by jbindc on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:18:11 AM EST
    it could all be well and good (in this case) and everything is sunshine and roses.  The question is - if it was so important, why did Pitney have to be there to ask the question in the first place?  Couldn't Obama have addressed it in his speech without making a spectacle?  Why did Pitney have to be the first question?

    See, the problem is, this could be all good and innocent, but since we are dealing with the WH, color me skeptical - everything they do is choreographed and vetted. All his press conferences end up looking like infomercials.

    The problem is, it just looks bad and for something that was so unneccessary to begin with.

    Parent

    It could have been handled better (5.00 / 2) (#30)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:22:50 AM EST
    for appearances' sake but Pitney did not tell what his question would be and in fact asked a good question that Obama actually ducked.

    Parent
    Silly (none / 0) (#56)
    by ColumbiaDuck on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 05:05:28 PM EST
    Staff and reporters often talk about what the subject of an interview will be.  Media Matters has a good post about this today, noting that when Dana Milbank appeared on Howard Kurtz' show to discuss Pitney, he was violating the exact same "principle" that Pitney did.  Milbank knew in advance what Kurtz wanted to talk about!  Get the smelling salts!

    Parent
    Assuming the WH (none / 0) (#24)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:13:36 AM EST
    is asking for questions beforehand, isn't this a lazy way to prepare for press conferences?  Doesn't the WH team prepare the President for a wide range of anticipated questions, including questions they'd rather not answer?

    Parent
    Did you read what happened (none / 0) (#39)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:44:51 AM EST
    including BTD's post on the subject, or are you just opining without knowing anything at all?

    Parent
    The media (none / 0) (#9)
    by jbindc on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:30:09 AM EST
    Will blow this off and characterize it as bloggers (incorrectly) did about Milbank  - this is just a blogger having a hissy fit because he's probably not invited.

    Parent
    The Obama administration and (none / 0) (#12)
    by Anne on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:46:09 AM EST
    Congress don't have to participate in this newest incarnation of pay-to-play, because they're already participating in the form of taking huge sums of money from lobbyists and industry executives in the form of campaign and PAC contributions.

    The health industry lobby is already deeply into the pockets of members of Congress - why wouldn't it want to own a newspaper, too?

    Parent

    Reminds me (none / 0) (#58)
    by NYShooter on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 05:35:20 PM EST
    Of the old joke:

    Client: How much do you charge for your service?

    Prostitute: $100.00

    Client: I'll give you five bucks.

    Prostitute: Five bucks????!!!! What do you think I am?

    Client: We've already determined that; we're just dickering price.


    Parent

    why? (none / 0) (#45)
    by cpinva on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 01:09:51 PM EST
    Just as I would hope that you would object to the Nico Pitney scenario....maybe you did and I missed it?

    mr. pitney asked a completely legitimate question, in a completely legitimate venue. that he was informed beforehand that he would be picked is, well, staggeringly irrelevant.

    Parent

    Incredibly shocking. And disgusting (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by esmense on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:15:14 AM EST
    I really didn't think I could become more disillusioned by our ruling class and beltway establishment -- this reaches an ethical low that, frankly, was far beyond my imagining.

    Unfortunately, too many Americans have come to accept this sort of thing as "business as usual" and/or are neither shocked or critical of such self-dealing, cozy insider conduct. Good governance is not possible in this ethical climate. But then again, good governance isn't something we appear to believe is possible or are willing to work to secure.

    We will be/are being brought down by our values. Or rather, lack of them.

    Versailles... (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by lambert on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 12:25:25 PM EST
    ... is a sack of pus waiting to burst.

    Parent
    Not surprised (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:15:33 AM EST
    Anyone who has paid attention to their reporting over the last decade or so would think they were doing this kind of thing already. Versailles is as corrupt as ever or maybe even more so.

    The best government (5.00 / 7) (#11)
    by oldpro on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:34:09 AM EST
    money can buy...

    Shocked...but not surprised.

    Maybe all those Obama admins. (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by oculus on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:06:55 AM EST
    sources who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for attribution will show up with paper bags on their heads?

    Like Lions' fans? (none / 0) (#15)
    by jbindc on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:11:50 AM EST
    Maybe because they're team is bad?

    Parent
    Think Progress updates, via (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by Anne on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:14:28 AM EST
    Ezra Klein:

    Ezra Klein posts an e-mail sent by Marcus Brauchli, the editor of the Washington Post, to the Post's newsroom staff which reads, "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."

    I've read it three times and still do not understand how this explanation helps.

    Who signed off to send the brochure to the printer (5.00 / 1) (#42)
    by lambert on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 12:24:13 PM EST
    Nothing about this makes sense except... Well, the obvious explanation, which is that our famously free press is corrupt through and through (with the exception of McClatchy).

    Parent
    See my update (none / 0) (#27)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:15:49 AM EST
    and my reaction to this response.

    Parent
    I think your response is spot-on. (5.00 / 2) (#37)
    by Anne on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:41:12 AM EST
    I'm just not sure why Brauchli thinks the Post still has any journalistic integrity to maintain.

    And I, too, would like to know who in the administration would be serving as their conduit - and would like an explanation about what looks like a significant departure from "changing the way things are done in Washington," with elements of betraying the "no lobbyists" promise, too.

    Somerby is going to have a field day with this...

    Parent

    Excellent proofreading. (none / 0) (#35)
    by oculus on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:29:09 AM EST
    what the company's vision for these dinners are

    Parent
    When a LOBBYIST thinks something is (5.00 / 3) (#31)
    by steviez314 on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:23:32 AM EST
    ethically wrong......well, what more do you need to know about the subject?

    Smells fishy. (none / 0) (#44)
    by oculus on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 12:29:00 PM EST
    And stinks on ice (none / 0) (#59)
    by cal1942 on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:53:55 PM EST
    Now that we know how the health care debate... (5.00 / 3) (#41)
    by lambert on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 12:22:33 PM EST
    ... was structured, since that was what they were selling the access to, could we perhaps reboot, and maybe get some decent policy, instead of this pissant idea of keeping the insurance companies in business with "public option"?

    Sounds like they (none / 0) (#1)
    by eric on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:05:36 AM EST
    might be offering more than they can deliver.  This is alluded to in the story.

    Reminds me of party invitations that suggest that there will be "famous people" at the party in an attempt to get people to show up.

    The whole thing is odd.

    Adding to this (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by eric on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:13:04 AM EST
    Regardless if they are actually able to secure the presence of any Congressional Leaders or Administration Officials, they are quite clearly offering access to, its "health care reporting and editorial staff."

    This is SO far out of line it is almost unbelievable.  It is one thing to have a party and tell people important people are going to be there, but it is another for a major newspaper to offer access to their writers and editors for a price.

    Unbelievable.

    Parent

    Ceci Connolly probably put this idea (5.00 / 4) (#10)
    by Anne on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:32:46 AM EST
    in the Suggestion Box - she's the WaPo's lead reporter on health care, and she's been doing her usual crappy job writing about it.


    Parent
    Scandalous? (none / 0) (#3)
    by me only on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:08:28 AM EST
    Sh1t, this is "business as usual."  Washington DC, motto, "Where anyone can pay to play.*"

    * We accept all major credit and debit cards, IOU's, promissary notes, and, of course, sex.

    i was with you up until (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by cpinva on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 01:13:14 PM EST
    * We accept all major credit and debit cards, IOU's, promissary notes, and, of course, sex.

    the "sex" part. no one actually has sex in DC, they go elsewhere for that. republicans don't have sex at all, they have "transgressions".

    Parent

    Wasn't Barney Frank (1.00 / 1) (#51)
    by me only on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 04:07:47 PM EST
    paying a prostitute to have sex with him in his Capital Hill apartment?  IIRC he wrote letters to a parole board for the guy.

    Seems like there was a scandal in 1998 about sex in DC.  Can't remember the details, though.

    25+ years ago two congressmen were censured for sexual conduct with pages.

    Parent

    No he wasn't (none / 0) (#52)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 04:51:11 PM EST
    I will not repeat the details of that particular pecadillo, but your statement is false.

    Parent
    From the TIME link (none / 0) (#54)
    by me only on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 05:00:26 PM EST
    At the least, Frank's judgment was appallingly naive. After an initial encounter in which he paid Steve Gobie $80 for sex, the Congressman says he tried to lift the younger man out of drugs and prostitution by hiring him to run errands. He wrote letters to Gobie's probation officer and paid his psychiatric bills.


    Parent
    Thanks for your correction (none / 0) (#57)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 05:14:08 PM EST
    Foley, Frank (none / 0) (#53)
    by squeaky on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 04:53:52 PM EST
    Florida Rep. Mark Foley (R). Frank's (D) scandal was quite different, more like a rescue mission that went awry.

    Parent
    I didn't use the Foley (none / 0) (#55)
    by me only on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 05:02:24 PM EST
    story because I couldn't find anything detailing sex in DC.  The third point was not about Foley.

    Parent
    Which Congressman was sited in the (none / 0) (#60)
    by oculus on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:08:29 AM EST
    tidal pool in DC w/a female who was not his wife?  This is ancient history.

    Parent
    1974 Wilbur Mills: (none / 0) (#62)
    by oculus on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:24:59 PM EST
    Wrong (none / 0) (#47)
    by jbindc on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 01:38:20 PM EST
    see Eliot Spitzer.

    Parent
    not wrong (none / 0) (#48)
    by sj on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 01:56:46 PM EST
    Or rather, not right example:  Eliot Spitzer was in New York, not DC.  :)

    Parent
    Ah (none / 0) (#50)
    by jbindc on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 03:33:13 PM EST
    But his "act" was in DC at the Mayflower Hotel in DC, yes?  I put the story out of my mind because I can't afford to waste brain space with stuff like this, but did he have other encounters in NY?

    :)

    Parent

    This may be an improvement (none / 0) (#13)
    by Repack Rider on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:55:28 AM EST
    They used to give this stuff away for nothing.

    Their, not they're (none / 0) (#16)
    by jbindc on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:12:06 AM EST


    Campaign finance reform (none / 0) (#17)
    by ColumbiaDuck on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:34:22 AM EST
    I think the Washington Post was an ardent supporter of limits on campaign contributions.  Funny they are now doing fundraisers that would be forbidden under McCain-Feingold ....

    Absolutely funny but true. (none / 0) (#20)
    by joze46 on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:02:43 AM EST
    This is "business as usual." Excellent suggestion, absolutely funny but true.

    For me that notion of a brown envelope placed openly on the table, at a bar, or in park bench, some where convenient thick with one hundred dollar bills. Neat and compact to slip into freezer for safe keeping.

    No comments as to the gesture of this placement of a thick brown envelope loaded with cash but sure the money falls either way and the management team knows it. For me this is the original expression of "Pushing the Envelope" hot cash is the negotiator but likely a fools negotiation liken to water boarding one would say anything to get the best buck.

    Here, again the reason for confidential secrecy by reporters and their sources hiding behind the shield of protecting their sources. Actually, here and often totally breaching the ethics of Journalism. However, this on going hierocracy of mainstream cable Journalism  habits long ignored and difficult to report by the media it self.

    Hey Big Tent, even more of a reason for the expression "Thanks for having me"...And gee what luck there happens to be a fat envelope with tens of thousands of dollars someone lost or forgot laying there on the counter. Gee I think Ill go and report this. Sure, yah, right. See you later have nice day...    

    OK I've tried, but fail to see how (none / 0) (#22)
    by oculus on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:10:49 AM EST
    the beginning of the title of this post relates to the actual post.  Blogger ethics panel?  Is this some kind of sick joke?  (snk)

    It is an old blogger joke (none / 0) (#23)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:12:38 AM EST
    First formulated when Zephyr Teachout attacked Markos  and Jerome Armstrong.

    Harvard actually HELD a Blogger Ethics Panel in January 2005.

    Many of us ridiculed it at the time.

    Parent

    Got it. The wrath of gawd (none / 0) (#38)
    by oculus on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:44:23 AM EST
    descended when I make a disfavored comment at DK based on the table in NYT purportedly tracing funds from various campaigns to various bloggers.

    Parent
    I know the newspaper industry (none / 0) (#25)
    by BackFromOhio on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:14:23 AM EST
    is hurting financially, but is this the best they can come up with?

    Is the objection to the pay to play? (none / 0) (#32)
    by oculus on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:25:14 AM EST
    How does this differ from reporters and op ed writers participating in panels at NYT or 92nd St. Y, for example?

    The paying the publication (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:28:04 AM EST
    I think the objection could not be clearer.

    Parent
    newspapers as pimps (none / 0) (#33)
    by Dadler on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:26:01 AM EST
    well, they've been whoring for the masters of the universe types for so long now, i guess the figured it was time to try on the velvet suit and the giant furry hat themselve.

    still, you'd think they'd be smart enough just to get a room and keep quiet about it.  dopes.

    but seriously (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by Dadler on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:33:30 AM EST
    what does it say about the state of the media's cluelessness about itself and its supposed mission that this kind of thing was thought up by ANYone at the paper.

    Parent
    Aparently they've decided not (none / 0) (#40)
    by Radix on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 12:06:50 PM EST
    to go forward. So as not to impugn the, I kid you not, the integrity of the Newspaper.

    This story is trully stunning. (none / 0) (#49)
    by inclusiveheart on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 02:21:44 PM EST
    The newspaper business of today is so far from the one that I used to know that it is almost unrecognizable anymore.  My first real job was in PR and just so you know, we simply did not have that kind of access even at one of the most powerful PR firms in the world.  They had ethics and integrity at that time.  They weren't perfect, but wow this is just stunning.  It is really sad to see how far they've fallen.

    Most shocking (none / 0) (#61)
    by cal1942 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:21:21 AM EST
    revelation about the press ever.

    It's hard to know where to begin. And. Just who are those Obama Administration people?

    The Post's shabby explanation is simply not credible given the reported wording of the flier.

    Can't wait to read Somerby.