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The Lobbyist Salons

I had the unhappy experience this morning of waking up to a story about my news organization offering lobbyists the opportunity to chat health reform with government officials and Washington Post reporters -- for $25,000 a seat.

There are two things I can say about this. One is that I think it appalling. The second is that I was never informed of, or invited to, any such salons (nor do I know who, if anyone, was). If I had been, I would have refused to attend.

Marcus Brauchli, the editor of the Washington Post, just sent out an e-mail saying that this is the position of the newsroom as a whole:

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.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 2, 2009; 10:57 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: CBO Gives Us the Key to Health-Care Reform: The Employer Mandate
Next: More From the HELP Bill


Gosh, what a relief! I was afraid for a minute that the WaPo was admitting to selling out to the corporate interests! We'll all be much happier when that fact remains closely hidden! Then, the only way to tell that you've sold out on health care reform will be to actually read the bilge that the opinion writers and "reporters" have been spewing

Posted by: kpkooiker | July 2, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

And how would it have to be REwritten to let the newsroom participate? Weak, Marcus, weak.

Posted by: Theophylact | July 2, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Say it ain't so, Ezra.

Posted by: ElViajero1 | July 2, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

"I had the unhappy experience this morning of waking up to a story about my news organization"

LOL. That's okay. I didn't really think of it as a "news organization" anyway. In fact, I'm kind of surprised that you refer to it as one, too.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | July 2, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Don't complain too loudly, Ezra, or they'll Froomkin you.

Posted by: EdTheRed | July 2, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Did I read correctly? Is the first "salon" going to be held at Katharine Weymouth's home---that's Katharine Weymouth, the CEO of the Post, granddaughter (and namesake) of Katharine Graham, niece of Post Publisher Donald Graham?

Has the Post lost any pretense of being an objective news organization?

Ezra, I know that you just started your new gig here. But this is so shocking that if this event is not called off I think it requires you (and any other self respecting reporter) to resign in protest.

Posted by: wasntme543 | July 2, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Was this event in conjunction with Business Forward, the blue version of K Street, or in competition with it?

Sad days indeed for the Fourth Estate.

Posted by: jepysdad | July 2, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

it is easy, and costs nothing to speak the truth from an ivory tower.
but it shows mettle to speak out
in the halls of the rich and the powerful.

lose not thy courage.
do the work.

Posted by: jkaren | July 2, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Get off your holier than thou pulpit man. I hate to break this to you but you are a lobbyist. You are essentially being paid to lobby via this form of media for your various causes. Your job allows you to dedicate a significant amount of time to researching and debating the issues that you care about. Most people with other forms of employment and other responsibilities do not have that amount of time to dedicate to issues that they care about. So what can people without the time do about issues they care about? What they do is they support interest groups that represent their interests. These interest groups in turn will hire lobbyists to fight for those interests in the political sphere. This is a fundamental form of democratic delegation and free speech. Lobbyists allow people to focus on raising their kids and walking their dogs instead of worrying about the latest political power grab. Newspapers also lobby the Government and perform a similar filtering function for the population at large. So why don't newspapers like lobbyists? Could it be self-interest? Greed? Or more plainly put; they just don't like the competition.

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | July 2, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

People say all kinds of rotten things about the Hiatt-and-Donald Graham era Washington Post. They say it has lost all credibility. They say it is in the pocket of the powerful. They say that its behavior destroys the credibility of those who associate with it. They say many things that used to strike me as exaggerated, over the top, or stated merely for effect.

But, for the first time this morning, I realized that associating oneself with the Washington Post truly MAY do more to damage one's reputation than to build it. And I never, ever, imagined that I would ever say or believe that.

Posted by: bcamarda2 | July 2, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

That the CEO and Publisher, Katharine Weymouth, saw nothing improper - indeed seems to be the sponsor, is a very telling sign of the "business ethics" that have infected journalism (earning the new word journamalism).

Madam Weymouth, I'm sure, planned to run a 'respectable house', but that red light over the door gave the game away.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | July 2, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Well JimPortlandOR,

When it's one of your perceived enemies, you're all over 'em holding their feet to the fire. And when it's someone you like, it's simply a "telling sign of the "business ethics" that have infected journalism".

It doesn't seem to be anyone's one's responsibility. It's just the way it is.

That 'bout it, Jimmy?

Posted by: ElViajero1 | July 2, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, get used to this. You are not working with an endowment funded non-profit organization. WaPo is a for profit company with declining sales in print newspapers. No wonder, it is desperate to sale ‘access to publicity’ to make some easy money. Your boss will tell you eventually that readers like me do not pay you (though we do not mind a reasonable price for that); but it is all the ‘pimping’ by Business Division which pays you. So you as an adult have to make the decision what is important – siding with an ethically compromised (and increasingly more so in future) paper and ensure that you reach more readers and influence debate better or quit it for the high road. I think the choice is simple, the former.

WaPo guys are not foolish. Eventually they will realize to come up with a business model on web as well as draw a line in terms what is okay and nor okay.

Imagine Ezra, this country, this world do not have too many institutions with the pedigree of WaPo. If they don’t get right eventually, who else then? What hope we have then? That will be a too hard climb for progressive forces to work off.

Posted by: umesh409 | July 2, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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