Main | Thursday, July 02, 2009

Influence Peddling Scandal Rocks Washington Post

The Washington Post has just canceled an event with lobbyists amid an explosive scandal that they'd been selling the lobbyists access to powerful politicians and their own reporters and editors. Politico has the story:
Washington Post Publisher and Chief Executive Officer Katharine Weymouth said today she was cancelling plans for an exclusive "salon" at her home where, for as much as $250,000, the Post offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to "those powerful few": Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and even the paper’s own reporters and editors.

The astonishing offer was detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he felt it was a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff." With the newsroom in an uproar after POLITICO reported the solicitation, Weymouth and Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli both said they were not aware of the flier.

“This should never have happened,” Weymouth told Post media reporter Howard Kurtz. “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." Brauchli told Kurtz he was "appalled" by the plan." It suggests that access to Washington Post journalists was available for purchase," Brauchli told Kurtz. The proposal "promises we would suspend our usual skeptical questioning because it appears to offer, in exchange for sponsorships, the good name of The Washington Post."
A lobbyist is rightfully chastising journalists for poor ethical practices. Bizarro world! Do we believe the WaPo's story that this just a case of a poorly written flier?

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