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The Post's 'Salon' Plan: A Public Relations Disaster

By Andy Alexander

For a storied newspaper that cherishes its reputation for ethical purity, this comes pretty close to a public relations disaster.

Politicoreported this morning that The Post has been soliciting lobbyists to pay from $25,000 to $250,000 to underwrite off-the-record “salons” at the home of publisher Katharine Weymouth that would provide access to administration and congressional leaders and the paper’s reporters and editors.

The story, accurately reported by Politico (and former Post) reporter Mike Allen, is based on a flier being circulated by a new marketing arm of The Post that has been created to host conferences and events.

The problem: The Post often decries those who charge for access to public officials. This raised the specter of a money-losing newspaper doing the same thing -- and charging for access to its own reporters and editors as well.

Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said he never saw the flier and would not have approved it. “I had no idea,” he said.

The Post scrambled to limit damage and canceled the first scheduled event.

Brauchli immediately sent a staff note saying: “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 in inviolable.”

Weymouth is out of town. [UPDATE, 3:42 p.m.: See the staff note from Weymouth at the end of this post.]

Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti issued a statement describing the flier as a "draft."

The “draft” is a single-page solicitation, printed in full color on glossy paper, which was distributed to potential underwriters for a gathering on health care. It reads: “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” on July 21.

“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.”

Included in the gathering would be “the publisher, executive editor and health-care reporters of The Washington Post.” The flier adds: “Build crucial relationships with Washington Post news executives in a neutral and informal setting.” Weymouth and Brauchli are listed as “hosts and discussions leaders.” Underwriters are invited to pay $25,000 per salon, with a maximum of two sponsors per session. An annual sponsorship of 11 Salons is offered at $250,000.

The flier came out of the office Charles Pelton, who joined The Post recently to find ways to generate business through conferences and events. The Post, like many struggling newspapers, is desperately seeking new sources of revenue.

“There’s no intention to influence or peddle,” Pelton said this morning. “There’s no intention to have a Lincoln Bedroom situation,” referring to charges that President Clinton used invitations to stay at the White House as a way of luring political backing.

Pelton said newsroom leaders, including Brauchli, had been involved in discussions about the salons and other events.

“This was well developed with the newsroom,” he said. “What was not developed was the marketing message to potential sponsors.”

Brauchli acknowledged discussions, but said they had centered on “identifying events that we think are worthy of newsroom participation, whether it’s a conference or a smaller event.”

Had they talked about where to draw the line on participation by reporters and editors?

“I thought we had,” he said, adding that he takes some responsibility for “not communicating effectively enough what the limitations were for newsroom participation.”

Brauchli did not rule out such participation, but said it would have to meet conditions that ensure there are no ethical conflicts for the newsroom.

“We would want to determine the subject matter,” he said. “We would want to assure ourselves that there were multiple sponsors and not sponsors with a vested interest.”

And, he said, “our preference is that things always be on the record.”

In fact, reporters sometimes sit in on off-the-record Post editorial board sessions with newsmakers. But often they are able to reach agreement with guests on reporting newsworthy information.

The reaction from readers was immediate and ranged from anger to disappointment to disbelief.

“I cannot tell you how this has shaken my trust in the Post,” Hemen H. Mehta of Falls Church wrote in an e-mail to me. “No longer can I trust in its unbiased reporting when it is selling access to lawmakers. I have been a loyal purchaser of the Post for over 10 years, but after reading this, I will no longer.”

Gabrielle Farrell of Potomac described the idea, as outlined in the flier, as “corrupting.”

“A newspaper can’t make money off of access," she wrote.

UPDATE, 3:42 p.m.: Weymouth, who is out of town, sent a staff note this afternoon saying that the flier had been prepared by The Post's marketing department and "was never vetted by me or by the newsroom." Had it been, she said, it "would have been immediately killed, because it completely misrepresented what we were trying to do."

Her note, she said, was intended to "reaffirm our commitment, first and foremost, to our journalism and our integrity. There is nothing more important and no amount of money that would cause us to jeopardize that."

"We are always looking for new revenue streams," she said, "but we will pursue only avenues that uphold our high standards of journalism. We were planning to do a series of dinners and had requested newsroom participation but with parameters such that we did not in any way compromise our integrity. Sponsorship of events, like advertising in the newspaper, must be at arm's length and cannot imply control over the content or access to our journalists."

Beyond canceling the July 21 gathering, Weymouth said "we will not hold salon dinners involving the newsroom."

By Andy Alexander  | July 2, 2009; 1:03 PM ET
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Next: Restoring The Post's Credibility With Readers -- and Staff


So, will this marketeer stay at the Post? Is his "vision" good for a newspsper?

I just don't know . . .

This really stinks.

Posted by: bmschumacher | July 2, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

The real question -- and the one that neither Weymouth nor Brauchli will address, is whether they knew that "sponsorships" would be sold.
The fact that this was being held in Weymouth's home creates the presumption that this would be an 'off-the-record' event. And every indication is that the problem here isn't the pimping of Post employees (not to mention administration & congressional figures), but the "marketing" of this scheme.
of course, this is how DC really works -- the only difference is that such prostitution is usually done with more finesse (i.e. the recipient of the largesse would be a favored charity of the "madam", rather than the "madam's" own company....)

Posted by: PaulLukasiak | July 2, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

From Ben Bradlee protecting JFK to Weymouth arranging "Salons" for Obama. Good to see the Post maintaining the journalistic standards we have come to expect from them over the years. Has there ever been a Democrat administration they didn't get into bed with?

Posted by: WoodbridgeVa1 | July 2, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Marcus Brauchli may say he never saw the flyer, but he obviously agreed to it, if he was a featured host/speaker, whatever.

He's a busy man with a busy calendar, and I am sure he had this blocked off. These kind of appointments don't get scheduled at the last minute.

Posted by: rhinsker | July 2, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Lordy, lordy. What a way to diminish your brand. I suspect the new guy is not a newspaper guy but somebody should have caught this in advance.... or was this what you all call a trial balloon.

Posted by: tarryh | July 2, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Glenn Greenwald over at Salon had you guys pegged a long time ago.
Your "journalists" might be better described as "geisha", willing to do whatever it takes to cuddle-up to power.
Your "newspaper" long ago abandoned any sort of "journalistic standards" or "ethics" in exchange for access to the powerful.
The contents of your pages no longer hold "the truth", having replaced it with "infotainment" and propaganda....
So who's paying the bills today?

Posted by: Tomcat3 | July 2, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I'll take back the waiting for a slow day to bury it. Crow eaten on that.

That being said, my expectation about the firewall, not newsroom denial was pretty much spot on.

What's sad is that the entire concept is crooked, not just how it was "marketed". Lets make it simple...lowly plebian, go badger the ombudsman. Wealthy patrician, buy a $25 large ticket and badger the reporters and editors directly. Access influences reporting, regardless of intent...simply by getting to have some drinks at the cocktail party you modify how someone reports on you, which is why journos should be avoiding social interaction, not selling it.

BTW - Interesting parallel. Charles Pelton, "overzealous marketer" of access peddling? Remains gainfully employed. Dan Froomkin, the guy who calls this stuff out? Canned.

Tells us all we need to know, doesn't it?

Posted by: janowicki | July 2, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

And let's not forget the perfume provided by "Salon," which is so refined, so intellectual, so Orwellian. If you must use French, how about "chambre a coucher?" Can someone explain how the good Ms. Weymouth could not have had the scheme explained in detail to her, or is she just grateful for any opportunity to help the family budget by renting out her home for the random private function?

Posted by: gratianus | July 2, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I have always respected and admired WAPO.

But, this is a disgrace. I don't see how you can spin this to be anything other than what it is.

A very sad day.

Posted by: POFTL | July 2, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Mr Ombudsman,
Just admit that what you have to deal with is NOT journalism, it is nothing more than Access Stenography.

"We know what you are; we're just haggling over price"

Posted by: cadet70 | July 2, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

You didn't mention the theme of the first "Salon" to be held. It was "Health Care: Better or Worse for Americans?". Plainly, the Washington Post wished to use its position to allow the wealthy and powerful to circumvent the urgent desire of the people for a fair, affordable health-care system.
I have an idea for the next Salon theme. With disgraced ex-U.N. president and Bush buddy John Bolton and disgraced ex-World Bank president and Bush buddy Paul Wolfowitz on the editorial page, how about "George W. Bush: Great President or Greatest President?".

Posted by: dnahatch1 | July 2, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

What lobbyist of note in this town would need to pay the Post for access to administration or congressional leaders?
What they are selling is access to themselves!

This story is exploding on the internet and rightfully so - send it to anyone you know!

Posted by: JEGrim | July 2, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

It is an *ethical* disaster. Referring to it as a Public Relations disaster in your headline infers that had it all stayed under the radar and not been outed to the public, everything would have been swell.

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

How could anyone employed by or associated with a newspaper operation not see that this was wrong on so many levels.

Posted by: learnedhand1 | July 2, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't Weymouth at the Buildeburg meeting last year? If not she, then one of your publishers.

This draws the line. As readers have already indicated, the stench of this doesn't end with Pelton. I have read your newspaper nearly every day for 12 years, since I was 15. I have worked hard for access to a free press while I was in China. Now, you have demonstrated that you are no longer a free press, you are corrupted beyond all recognition. While Weymouth is still publisher, I will be boycotting the Washington Post. This is the final comment I will post on this site, and the final article I will read. How it grieves me to write this, but you are mercenaries, nothing more. Honorable writers working for this newspaper will strike to force Weymouth's resignation. Meanwhile, I'll be going to the Washington Times for my news.

Posted by: wabewalker | July 2, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Full disclosure: I left the ranks of local subscribers to the Post during the collapse of the early Bush II years. But to be honest... as disgusting as this whole affair is, it's less damaging to the Post's reputation than retaining Fred Hiatt as editor of Editorial.

Posted by: antontuffnell | July 2, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Part of this communication S.N.A.F.U. comes from the fact that a great percentage of the top 5% of the paper have been working there for less than five years.

This is not necessarily reflective of the talents of these people. Rather, it's the ingrained culture of never never never letting superstar employees go. This has been going on for 20-30 years. No room has been made in that time for anyone new.

I still believe the Post to have a great deal of journalistic integrity, even after being politically railroaded out of a job. But this event is the worst example so far of the institutional incompetence that pervades the Post.

Posted by: exPostie | July 2, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Captain Renault (Brauchli): I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier (Weymouth) hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier (Weymouth): Your winnings, sir.

Bottom line: If Brauchli didn't know this influence peddling was going on, he's too damn stupid to be a reporter, much less an Exec. Editor.

Posted by: wabbott | July 2, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Let's see, the Post has managed to alienate the Right by doing actual journalism; the political Left by failing to do any actual journalism; and now everybody else by offering to prostitute itself to the highest bidder.

Neat business model you've got there.

Posted by: antontuffnell | July 2, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

It's a sad day for journalism.
I've been a WaPo reader for more than 40 years and I'm ashamed of and for them.
To blame this on the marketing group alone is wrong. There were certainly multiple sets of eyes that vetted the flier. The "Post marketing executive should resign (or be fired) post haste (pun intended) but that doesn't get to the heart of the problem. The Post leadership should also take responsibility. Ms. Weymouth should be mortally ashamed. Not that the story came out, but that it happened at all.

Posted by: mccarpen | July 2, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I think everyone in the Main Stream Media should wear tight little red dresses to remind us what they really are. As for the poster who said Katherine Graham rolling over in her grave, it was her patriot husband Phil who began Operation Mockingbird, CIA infiltration of the America media in the 1940s. Do your own research don't rely on these paid shills. Don't be fooled ever again by reading any of the "expert" and "storied" reporting and opinions on Cap and Trade, Health Care, The Wars, Terrorism, etc, ect, ect.

Posted by: PitchforksandTorches | July 2, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. I guess we now know why Froomkin was axed. This is the kind of thing he would roll his eyes at. You still had one journalist left, until he was axed.

I'm sure all of the idiot opinion writers there don't have a problem with it. This paper used to be great, it's turning into a slightly left version of the Washington Times.

Posted by: JohnLease | July 2, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

“As written, the newsroom could not participate in an event like this.”
Like the qualifier "as written." And what does the newsroom encompass? Would editorial staff be allowed to participate? I'm looking at you Dana Millbank, you paragon of journalistic virtue.

Posted by: Gutavo | July 2, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Weymouth is as cupable as the marketing flak. The Post is clearly rotting from the inside--this is no mere PR problem, it's a problem of management and clarity about what a major national paper should be.
You fire Froomkin, but keep a whiny lazy scribe like Dana "you are a dick" Milbank, and now this. Not to mention George Will's lack of factchecking and op-eds that showcase neoconservatives at the zaniest (like John Bolton's in today's paper) You may as well sell the paper to Rupert Murdock given how much its deteriorated in the past few weeks alone.

Posted by: thebuckguy | July 2, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Might have been worth pointing out that Mike Allen used to work for The Post before he went to Politico.

Posted by: Cosmo06 | July 2, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Good lord! This is nuts.

Now, anyone attempting to contact a Post reporter will have to wonder whether their calls would be returned more quickly -- or at all -- if only they had paid to sponsor a salon.

Posted by: reinan1 | July 2, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

The real question is: will Post reporters and editors hear the voices of those who can't afford $25,000 to tell their side of the story?

Posted by: jessicaroach | July 2, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

What have I become? My sweetest friends. Everyone I know, goes away, in the end. And you can have it all, my empire of durt, I will let you down, I will make you hurt.

Posted by: CypressTree | July 2, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Reading here and all over the net it is apparent, to paraphrase John Mitchell, that "Katherines tit has finally gotten caught in that wringer"!

Posted by: JEGrim | July 2, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

The Post's credibility on local news was destroyed long ago by sloppy, inaccurate reporting. The editorial page has been biased and excessively influenced by certain Montgomery County politicians like Councilmembers Andrews and Trachtenberg. The Post is so bad that I cannot rely upon it for accuracy in any matter. Therefore, this is no surprise, but interesting to see the Post brass try to spin and worm out to avoid full responsibility for what this is: disreputable, shameful, unethical conduct.

Posted by: MVResident | July 2, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

This is a perfect and fitting denouement for the Washington Post after the disgraceful firing of Dan Froomkin.

Note to Greg Sargent and Ezra Klein: Leave the Washington Post before you find your own reputations ruined.

Posted by: MadAsHell3 | July 2, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

This sounds too much like damage control. WaPo has hurt its reputation brand with this mistake.

Posted by: ecostarr1 | July 2, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

This is exploding all over the net. To paraphrase John Mitchell, it looks like "Katherine's tit has finally gotten caught in that wringer!"

Posted by: JEGrim | July 2, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

This further confirms my suspicions that the Israel Lobby has also been a profit center for the Washington Post.

This is not a public relations disaster either. Rather, the Washington Post is ruined.

Posted by: MadAsHell3 | July 2, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, journalistic integrity is an oxymoron like military intelligence and painless dentistry. It no longer exists. Any thing to make a fast buck or reward your friends is fair game.

Unfortunately, the Washington Post is no exception to this trend in sleaze. How many times has Obama been on the covers of Time or Newsweek this past year?

New Orleans is the Big Easy - Washington is the Big Sleazy.

Posted by: alance | July 2, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't come close to being a PR disaster, it is a PR disaster.

Posted by: subwayguy | July 2, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I'm sorry, this is not a public relations disaster - this is an ethics disaster. Ms. Weymouth's initial response to the accusations is very telling.

Posted by: eyeswideopen2 | July 2, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

You're exactly right when you say:
"Interesting parallel. Charles Pelton, "overzealous marketer" of access peddling? Remains gainfully employed. Dan Froomkin, the guy who calls this stuff out? Canned. Tells us all we need to know, doesn't it?"

Another reason Froomkin should be counting his blessings at being free from the crumbling house of Hiatt, Krauthammer, Weymouth and Pelton.

What a double disappointment, WaPost.

Posted by: OctoberLanguage | July 2, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Pelton's comparing it to the "Lincoln Bedroom incident" is absurd. Lobbyists weren't being offered mere access to a room.

Posted by: jhbyer | July 2, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Countdown until Mr. Alexander closes comments for this post . . .

3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | July 2, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

weymoth used to work at one the lobbyist law firms. She wouldn't know ethics if they bit her on the tail.

Posted by: thebuckguy | July 2, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Abandon ship! Abandon ship!

Posted by: gmcduluth | July 2, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I bet Weymouth is out of town!! Probably schmoozing with some high rollers on Martha's Vineyard. This bullsh-t is just one more reason to consider cancelling my subscription to "The Post."

Posted by: mollei | July 2, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

What do you expect from a marketing person? They're like prostitutes; anything for a buck.

Posted by: rrno62 | July 2, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

The Post just handed Rush Limbaugh the biggest Christmas present he could have hoped for. It's going to be hard to keep calling *Fox* crooked after this. Thanks a lot, WaPo. You should have just put the money into salaries for editors.

Posted by: sarahabc | July 2, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

It's not the wording of the flier that's the problem. The very notion of money changing hands is corrupting.

But let's not kid ourselves that this is the Post's first foray into selling opinion.

The Post has a peculiarly sinister and greasy list of corporate sponsors. Lockheed Martin leads the way in Post ads, followed by Exxon.

No newspaper in a normal developed country would touch ads from government arms dealers.

But in the Post I've frequently seen editorials praising missile defense right next to an ad from one of the system's contractors.

Lockheed Martin's ad buys must account for about 5% of the Post's revenue ... 5% of its journalists' salaries.

They can claim till they're blue in the face that this doesn't signify, that they put up moral firewalls, but NOBODY is immune to that kind of pressure, especially when money is tight.

They end up wanting Lockheed to do well. And a great way to ensure that is to keep the American people scared about foreign threats.

He who pays the piper always ends up calling the tune.

Posted by: kevrobb | July 2, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

It looks like there is a new D.C. Madame in town.

Posted by: flounder2 | July 2, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse


I'm going home, pop "All the President's Men" into the DVD player and offer a toast to the good old days when the Post was a Newspaper worth reading...

Posted by: jjhalpin | July 2, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh boy, the Wapo screwed up.

You know they will continue to do this 'salon' under the table, something we have known for a long time is usual practice, not only by the Wapo.

Caught red faced, ah, wapo??

Posted by: coqui44 | July 2, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Spineless. Just like I predicted in the comments to the Kurtz article. Lots of weasel words ("new guy", WaPo's PR statement, Pelton's denial fo any conflict, etc.). No -- NO -- ringing condemnation. Might as well have just said "mistakes were made" and saved readers time out of their life.

Posted by: gbooksdc | July 2, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

By the way, they TEACH the LA Times/Staples Center scandal in j-school. There is NO excuse for this getting to bat, let alone reaching first base.

Posted by: gbooksdc | July 2, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse


What a bunch of sleaze-ball sneaks these WaPo people are.

You just can't make this stuff up. They have stepped on their own political peters. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving group.

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | July 2, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

One last item: Howie Kurtz INTERVIEWED Ms. Weymouth in an article timed at 1:10PM Thursday. But for the "reader's representative", the Ombudsman, she was "out of town" for a blog entry posted at 1:30PM? Sounds like another dis. Hope they're paying you well, because self-respect is actually valuable, you shouldn't sell it on the cheap.

Posted by: gbooksdc | July 2, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Still not clear whether Weymouth was willing to sell access to herself, the other "non-news" staff and individuals from the Obama administration. Would the latter have been paid to come to have dinner with her? The whole thing stinks to high heaven. I am disappointed that Alexander described it as a public relations disaster. It is much more significant than that. It is exactly the type of activity that the Post has been editorializing against concerning campaign finance and access to members of Congress.

Hannity and the rest of the knuckledraggers are going to have a field day with this. Even Murdoch and Ailes would never allow this type of crap to happen.

Weymouth should take full responsibility, apologize abjectly, and promise that nothing of the kind will ever happen again. She should also tell Pelton to get a job with a PAC.

Posted by: laffingby | July 2, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I'll bet if we could collect together $25 large we'd get straight, non-spun answers.

Posted by: janowicki | July 2, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Here's the thing...the plan isn't a "public relations disaster," it's an ethical disaster that has resulted in well-deserved bad PR.

Posted by: EdTheRed | July 2, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

The WAPO is looking for ways to save money? Here's an idea that takes us back to the days before journalists started wearing three-piece suits and hobnobbing with lawyers and the mighty: Clean house. Get rid of the hoary columnists who won Pulitzers in the 1970s and '80s. Fire the reporters (everyone except Dana Priest). Rebuild the news and commentary staff from the ranks of college newspapers and the recently laid-off journalists throughout the midland. This would generate immense interest which translates into readers. And come up with a system for charging for on-line access. Ask yourself, why not?

Posted by: davemarks | July 2, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Well, guys, you have finally handed over the ammo that Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, et. al., really want. The airwaves will be echoing with their laughter.

Scanning these comments, I did not see one that supported the WaPo in this dubious endeavour. Instead, I see words like "sleaze" and "disaster" -- apt terms. This "access" proposal also underscores critics' assertions that your staffers are lap dogs to the powerful.

All in all, a sorry bit of work.

Now... who will fall on his sword?

Posted by: IReadNewspapers | July 2, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

People are going to remember today as the day the Washington Post died.

Posted by: eyeswideopen2 | July 2, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

KW hired the marketing exec to drum up events/income opportunities. The flier in question was printed on glossy paper stock,which means it was not a 'draft' of anything, this was going out to the select masses. The more KW tries to spin this, the worse the Post looks. In all coverage of this situation, replace the words "Washington Post" with "Any Other Company," and you know the Post would be salivating over unearthing the juicy details. H Kurtz is a walking example of a conflict of interest as all good Post people know and say.He double dips cashing Post paychecks and also being Mr Media critic on CNN. Let's see how he spins this one.

Posted by: Roxcy21 | July 2, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I do really like the part about $250K for "non-confrontational access". The simple translation of that deliciously accurate phrase is "We'll kiss your ass for $250K; you just tell us how hard."

Posted by: charlesfmaguire | July 2, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

You do realize that now Ceci Connolly's atrocious health reporting looks even more like marketing for your advertisers & sponsors, don't you?

It's going to take a lot of substantive atonement- aggressive reporting as well as many scalps - for you to be able to go out in public & not be shunned & mocked.

Posted by: Downpuppy | July 2, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"PRETTY CLOSE" TO A PUBLIC RELATIONS DISASTER? YOU THINK? I am so disappointed. Another example of the "well heeled" being giving special access. The real journalism would be to find out if this has already happened at the Post. I so tired of hypocrisy. Sad that the Post is going down without its dignity.

Posted by: rsraul | July 2, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Oh, sure, blame the marketing department. It has long been evident that the Post, in both its news and editorial pages -- which are pretty much the same thing -- consistently promotes the interests of large and powerful corporations. See, for example, Ceci Connolly's recent, heavily biased article attacking those who want a strong public plan as part of any health care reforms. The news about the "salons" is certainly no surprise, although it does explain a lot.

Posted by: lydgate | July 2, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse


How about some bake sales and car washes...instead of DESTROYING what used to be one of the world's finest newspapers.

Just a thought.

Posted by: wilder5121 | July 2, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

A public relations disaster? You don't think it's a journalism disaster?

Maybe you can find out what really happened. It kind of beggars the imagination that the marketing dept, without consulting the publisher or the legal staff or the editors or anyone, sent this out. That's just not the way things work in big corporations. And if in fact that did happen that way, something is really wrong.

Alas, Dan Froomkin is no longer here to figure this out. How'd that happen, huh? I don't that we ever got a straight explanation of that.

Posted by: lister1 | July 2, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

This isn't just a disaster for the Post. What about the Obama White House and the Democratic leadership in Congress that is peddling this. They're doing everything, including hanging "For Sale" signs around the necks of Pelosi and Obama. Apparently that "change" I voted for was what was left between the cushions of the couch when Bush and Cheney moved out. Obama - Bush in blackface!

Posted by: mibrooks27 | July 2, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Sigh... this really is merely one step below firing Froomkin while keeping Gerson, Hiatt, Krauthammer, Will and Broder, not to mention publishing op-eds from Bolton, Feith, et al. If you're going to be a Republican newspaper you may as well get the crony capitalism benefit of it.

Posted by: CardFan | July 2, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

There simply isn't any excuse whatsover for this idea to have gotten as far as it did, whether or not the newsroom was involved, or even knew about it. If the Washington Post Company were truly in the business of journalism, then everybody in the company--even on the so-called "business side"--would have known better.

But the fact is that there are very companies any more that are actually in the business of journalism.

Katharine Weymouth should resign or be fired.

Posted by: bob5540 | July 2, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

"Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti issued a statement describing the flier as a 'draft.' The 'draft' is a single-page solicitation, printed in full color on glossy paper..."

Either this is the world's first proof galley produced by offset printing, or lying comes easily to employees of the Washington post.

Posted by: Masuccio | July 2, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Gee, and here I thought all the grammatical and spelling errors this newspaper has been making lately were serious problems. Thanks for putting it in perspective, Washington Post.

Posted by: McGee2 | July 2, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse


I agree.

Ms Weymouth ought to fall on her sword.

Posted by: bmschumacher | July 2, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I have never seen a news organization self-destruct more quickly than I have the Washington Post today. You just flat-out offered flattering stories in exchange for $250,000 bribes. Unbelievable.

Posted by: willallison_2000 | July 2, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

This is just one with the WP writer's group speeches to paying interests that was exposed a few months ago. WP needs to decide their mission--journalism or corporate marketing--you can't do both!

Posted by: ncaofnw | July 2, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

If Charles Pelton is not fired, in total repudiation, outrage, and rejection by nightfall today, the Post stands as corrupt, unredeemable, and pathetically unbelievable, almost surely forever.

Posted by: skeptic6 | July 2, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure Weymouth's explanation is all that reassuring. What I'm getting out of the "official" explanation is "Look we worded the flier badly, but we have no problems ACTUALLY holding these 'Salons.'"

It's being treated like it's a PR problem, not a real problem. The conception of the IDEA was horrible, not just the flier that was put out. (And how about the dissembling that the flier was a "draft." A really glossy, well-made "draft.")

Are cozy "off-the-record" chats with Obama officials, lobbyists and high-newsroom reporters going to assist WashPost readers? Or are we a LOT more likely to get reporters who are now (under the official eye of publisher Weymouth) going to sprout Lobbyists lines -- or at least be a lot more sympathic to their lines of logic. Are those who wish for expansive public options going to be granted the same cozy access to Obama officials and senior reporters?

Posted by: NewsCat-VA | July 2, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Seems to be a storm in a teapot. But it is good to stay as clean as possible.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | July 2, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

This is absolutely pathetic. I can't believe that Weymouth could even fathom doing something like this. So much for reading the Post.

Here's a great cost-saving idea: fire all of your reporters and simply ask the White House or its lobbyists to draft the daily news. Oh, wait ...

Posted by: gavrilov | July 2, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

What a delightful collection of comments. It recalls for me Alexander Herzen's description of the revolutionaires manques of Paris 1849- a ragtag band of raging college dropouts and unpublished authors. It's plain that if there is an historical dialectic, it doesn't involve any intellectual advancement of humanity.

Whoever expected the WaPo to carry the banner of the workers' revolution, anyway? The Post is obviously trying hard to stop losing money, but they're not in any way that's apparent to me selling out to "capitalist" interests. Among national newspapers, only the NYT is more blatantly cheerleading the Obama administration's efforts to bring social democracy to America.

Posted by: raskolnik | July 2, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

First Froomkin, now this.

I have now removed the Post from all my RSS feeds.

Good job guys! Welcome to the end times.

Posted by: jteam1 | July 2, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Publisher KW is "out of town" -- and "up the creek." This wasn't a draft flier -- it was out and about, and had her living room as the destination on it.

But still the very fact the Post has an Ombudsman to give itself a kick in the butt shows there's some integrity left. That is, if the right action is taken following this debacle.

Posted by: kls1 | July 2, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

This just gets murkier the deeper we get.

What did the newsroom editors think they were agreeing to? Just a dinner with the publisher? (I wouldn't expect them to turn that down.)
Is that how the publisher presented this to them in the discussions?
So who invited the administration staffers (and Gibbs is saying they got an invite but didn't accept)?
Who invited the lobbyists?
What did Weymouth think she was hosting?
What did the editors think they were attending, what their reporters would be expected to do?

It's not enough to say that the flier was released unvetted (which seems unlikely anyway). Obviously there had already been a lot of planning. So what was planned? Who slapped the $25K price tag on there?

Posted by: lister1 | July 2, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I want to know which lobby shops, companies or individuals sponsored these "salons" -- particularly the one on health care. That's newsworthy information.

Posted by: orftc | July 2, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse


just who do you think will report on those details? Howie Kurtz?

Mr Ombudsman,

I think it's time for you to step in and suggest that Post Management come clean and that Ms Weymouth take the buyout.

Posted by: bmschumacher | July 2, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, not buying the excuses.

By the way, what's the going rate to punch Fred Hiatt in the 'nads?

Posted by: tpsteele | July 2, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

dijamo is exactly right. If you're describing this as a "public relations disaster", then your perspective here is not appropriate. The problem here is the selling of access by a newspaper, not the public relations.

Posted by: davestickler | July 2, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

this flyer in question was printed in color on glossy paper. but it wasn't 'vetted'? who's kidding whom here? that was no 'draft.' the Post counts pens and notebooks, no way does a color glossy flyer--printed outside the Post, which costs big--go out without the big wheels knowing of its existence and content. The marketing man was doing what he was paid to do. There is no excuse for such a lapse in communication by the Post mgrs and their newly hired marketing gun,who will probably be fired for doing what they hired him to do.

Posted by: Roxcy21 | July 2, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

This is only "pretty close" to a public-relations disaster?

This merely confirms in many minds that perception that the WaPo merely represents the "inside the beltway" consensus. An aggregation of the opinions of all of the lobbyists, industry groups, and entrenched special interests.

Posted by: jackrussell252521 | July 2, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm not impressed one whit with the 'explanation'.

Mainstream media, like yourselves, sold your journalistic integrity long ago. The perfect example being, in your case, the Iraq war, where you copied and pasted every known Bush lie on the front page and editorial page, and relegated the truth, by Thomas Ricks, to page 23.

Even after the war was a known fiasco, you were silent, no doubt 'protecting' Woodwards 'access' to the Bush administration so he could make lots of money with a bestseller.

Your recent firing of Froomkin, a REAL reporter, is another indication of how you pander to the few, the neocons, for ideological reasons at the price of integrity.

I don't buy your 'explanation' and I doubt anyone does.

No one will weep at your funeral.

Posted by: barbara255 | July 2, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

(In color? On glossy paper? Sounds hideous to me.)

Posted by: bmschumacher | July 2, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, well, all along it appeared that the marketing department was just doing its usual aggressive promotion job.

But the concept of fee participation obviously didn't come from the marketing dept.

so the marketing dept. should not be scapegoated.

I am reading that the Post has decried others who have charged participation fees. Does this look like a Sanford denunciation of Bill?

Posted by: Ruffles1 | July 2, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

I think @tpsteele above hit on a great way for your paper to generate much needed revenue:

Charge $25,000 for a chance to kick Fred Hiatt in the 'nads.

It's foolproof.

Posted by: wasntme543 | July 2, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I haven't commented on this site since the elections in November, mostly because I believed that the Post did an awful job of coverage from any number of standpoints, right or left or middle.

Now I realize how correct I have been to stay away.

There will be no reason to ever trust the veracity of anything the Post prints ever again. They are done.

Posted by: mpc2007 | July 2, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

The loony-left socialist media still doesn't get it. As more and more people get disgusted by their blatantly biased "reporting" - full of lies, distortions, half-truths, misrepresentations, baseless slime attacks and endless propaganda supporting their out-of-touch positions, all served up with a complete absence of journalistic ethics - people will look elsewhere for honest, factual information.

Even the Washington Post admits, as a result of an internal self analysis, that the paper has indeed lived up to the claim that they are ALL-HUSSEIN, ALL-THE-TIME. Their OWN study showed that their coverage of hussein was substantially greater than that of McCain, and that the majority of their stories on TheOne were with a favorable bias. Any objective reader would come to the same conclusion.

To illustrate the perversity of the WaPo bias, look at their explanation of how they get "poll" results. Again, by their own admission (these admissions suggest they feel guilty from their outrageous crimes against responsible journalism), they intentionally distort the pool of respondents to increase the number of those expected to support their loony-left agenda. Most people call this "fixing the result".

But the NY Times ("All The News That's Fit To Fake") has gone much further into hussein-love than even WaPo's most blatantly biased efforts. This rag is so outrageously biased it makes Al Jazeera seem Fair and Balanced in comparison.

It wasn't always so. The greats of journalism are now rolling over in their graves at the despicable travesty that has overcome their profession. A free and unbiased press is (rather, it was) a cornerstone of democracy - with it's death at the hands of the loony-left socialists the freedoms of Americans are now even more in jeopardy.

Posted by: LoonyLeft | July 2, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

This is far more than a public relations disaster; the mere solicitation, whether or not it was "vetted" or whether or not money actually changed hands, is an incredible breach of ethics. If The Post is interested in trying to repair the damage, it should start by summarily firing the people responsible for this fiasco; your publisher should categorically renounce any further involvement in conferences or "salons" involving lobbyists or special interest groups.

To add insult to your injury, your downsized staff got scooped on the story. At least with the Janet Cooke affair, another fiasco of comparable proportions, The Post at least had the wherewithal to be first with the news.

Posted by: longtimereader1 | July 2, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

"...this comes pretty close to a public relations disaster."

Oh my. Thank God it really isn't one, is that what you're trying to tell us? Are you out of your cotton-picking gourd?

I mean, really, no offense, but that is the most egregious understatement ever soft-pedaled to a public likely never to trust this news outlet again -- EVER.

This invite was in the WORDS of Weymouth. It was to be held at HER HOME. To suggest that she didn't vet this is exactly what it sounds like: preposterous. Yeah, I kinow, what else can you say? My heart bleeds.

Oh, and this soiree was to be on health care yet! Offering the paper as a mouthpiece for the vested interests in the status quo, for a price - is that how low this health care debate has sunk?

The real question is: will the media stop at nothing to scuttle the will of three quarters of Americans who want a public option as part of health insurance reform?

Posted by: dgblues | July 2, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

This is a sad, sad day for everyone who learned the principles of journalistic integrity at The Post some years ago. If the marketing masterminds involved in this don't have the grace to resign before nightfall, they should be fired forthwith. The publisher should make clear that access to her home and events there cannot be bought or rented. The Post should stick to covering lobbyists and politicians, not cozying up to them.

Posted by: cjohnson1 | July 2, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

The Ombudsperson is wrong. This isn't a public relations disaster. This is a journalistic ethics disaster. The fact that the Post would charge money to facilitate interactions between powerful people says it all.

Posted by: SteveIowa | July 2, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

"Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti issued a statement describing the flier as a "draft.""

"The “draft” is a single-page solicitation, printed in full color on glossy paper, which was distributed to potential underwriters for a gathering on health care. It reads: “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” on July 21."

Did the draft have say it was a draft? This sounds like a cover-up. I would hope the Post Ombudsman would do some serious investigation and reporting here. We all would like to know what Weymouth knew and when she knew it. This is more than a public relations disaster. I can't believe that a "draft" would be sent to the potential sponsors without some involvement on the part of the publisher and intended hostess of the "salons."

This is serious stuff. In one stroke, the Washington Post has become Fox News.

David in VA

Posted by: jacobson98 | July 2, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

PR disaster, indeed. It would be a journalism disaster if the Post had the slightest concern about providing objective journalism. The PR disaster is that the Post has exposed to the world its lack of ethics and disregard for journalistic integrity.

The Op-Ed page quickly went into terminal decline when Fred Hiatt took over. Fearful Fred's Neocon hacks dodge sidewalk cracks and find terror in the shadows, but they do excellent service for their defense contractor advertisers. Now we discover that the health beat is up for sale too.

This is a very sad day for the Post.

Posted by: ttbirchard | July 2, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"...The “draft” is a single-page solicitation, printed in full color on glossy paper,..."

I'm calling bu!!@h!t on it being a draft.

Satan turned down a marketing internship when he graduated from Notre Dame saying "There's some things I just won't do."

Posted by: tcryer | July 2, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing at all surprising in this. It has long been perfectly clear from the Post's reportage and its columns that the Post is in the pocket of, and is a mouthpiece for, corporate interests. The Post is dead. The Post has been dead for several years.

Posted by: Aformerjournalist | July 2, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't want to be this guy - from Kurtz' article:

"The fliers were overseen by Charles Pelton, a Post executive hired this year as a conference organizer. He was not immediately available for comment."

This was a bad idea from the get go. It's one thing to sponsor a conference but to sell access in Salons (how elite does that sound?) in small, intimate groups is another matter entirely.

Were congress members being paid to show up or were they doing it for access to the lobbyist money?

Posted by: FauxReal | July 2, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

In response to janowicki's comment below, yes, it does tell us all we need to know. The newsroom must be in an uproar.

BTW - Interesting parallel. Charles Pelton, "overzealous marketer" of access peddling? Remains gainfully employed. Dan Froomkin, the guy who calls this stuff out? Canned.

Tells us all we need to know, doesn't it?

Posted by: janowicki | July 2, 2009 2:01 PM

Posted by: EastofKansas | July 2, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

What's disappointing is that only the first Salon is canceled. Evidently the others are still on.

Beyond canceling the July 21 gathering, Weymouth said "we will not hold salon dinners involving the newsroom."

They should all be canceled. These are highly inappropriate. It may not involve the newsroom but it involves management and provides yes another avenue for lobbyists to influence Congress. Will envelopes of cash be exchanged?

Posted by: FauxReal | July 2, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

A disaster, yes. But to be expected given what has been happening to the paper under Katherine Weymouth's leadership. Notice that I didn't call the WaPo a newspaper.

Posted by: sensible | July 2, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Bring back Dan Froomkin, if you want to begin to restore your lost credibility.

Posted by: NMReader | July 2, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Desperation makes people do stupid things. If the environment inside WaPo is this bad, look out!

Posted by: d1carter | July 2, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for saving me time every morning. I will no longer go to your website or buy your newspaper. What does it say when I feel I can trust USA TODAY more than WAPO or NYT?

Posted by: aestern | July 2, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Wow, you guys are plummeting FAST. I thought Froomkin getting ax'd was disgraceful, but this is almost SURREAL.

Do you realize that you're turning the great Washington Post into a LAUGHINGSTOCK ??? One of the most important moments in history and you're AUCTIONING OFF ACCESS TO REPORTERS???

One wonders if the Ombudsman classifies this as "pretty close to a public relations disaster," what would actually qualify as a "true and complete public relations disaster."

Posted by: AdHack | July 2, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Spin and scapegoating. Nixon would be proud. Heck, Ron Ziegler would be proud.

Posted by: gbooksdc | July 2, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Nixon, "Remember, others may hate you. But they don't win, if you get to keep the money."

Posted by: OldAtlantic | July 2, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

"For a storied newspaper that cherishes its reputation for ethical purity, this comes pretty close to a public relations disaster." Mr. Alexander...I think they've destroyed your perspective.

A public relations disaster would be that the public learned some senior staff person suggested the "pay to say" event. That the event has been scheduled with high-level approval and turned over to marketing with executive staff now scrambling for cover illustrates how deeply the decay in the system exists. On top of the other awful executive decisions made by editorial and executive managers in the system, exacerbated by their lack of transparency and honesty not only with readers, but with their own Ombudsman, simply makes obvious that the Post is rotting.

I keep saying i'm leaving...but it's hard to take one's eyes off the train wreck.

Posted by: las100 | July 2, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Cherish your reputation for ethical purity? Since when was that? Although this behavior is completely appalling, it is no surprise considering the totality of your Obama worship. Why not combine the fact that you exist to promote and spin Obama administration policies with a money-making opportunity? Makes sense to me. How much access did you get by the way for the unforgettable Mother Day's homage to Mrs. Obama's arms?

Posted by: Ashtangi | July 2, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

I am shocked - absolutely shocked!

Posted by: dollyq | July 2, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Didn't anyone at the WaPo think that a 'round robin' of newspaper editors, corporate lobbyists, and appointed officials that could pay $25,000 to attend an event 'off the record' would DISADVANTAGE the consumer groups the non-profit types that either can't pony up the money or they are forbidden in their bylaws to shell out a fee like this? Not a fair level playing field when the big money think tanks are over-represented. How about the real government civil service GS and GM's who are professionals and really know their statistics and are unbiased just the facts employees? Who would pay for the 'meat and bones' actuarial types to attend? Wouldn't it be illegal? Why not pound the pavement, develop your sources, and take lots of photojournalists with you- my WaWa in the morning was full of people buying the WaPo with their coffee when you ran the series on Dick Cheney, the scandal at the VA, and the event coverage of the Obama election and inaugural ..

Do what you do best, WaPo, report and investigate and they will come and buy your paper. I subscribe to WaPo but if you did additional access on-line investigations and series reporting of the caliber like with the VA scandal I would pay a fee.

I think your marketing types were ripping off 'The Well' at and were trying to apply it to the real world and make money off of the idea on a grand elite limited access pay for access round robin.

Shame on your decision makers, you'll just rolled over and died during the build-up of the invasion in Iraq and now this. Man, you used to be so sharp and cutting edge and your articles would just pop.
Read your own archives on the BCCI, Iran-Contra, etc... you'll used to do great stuff.

Posted by: Gracefulboomer | July 2, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

I guess we now know why Froomkin was fired...

In the 3:42 Wymouth note, is there any hint that the fundamental _idea_ of holding secret, off-the-record "salons" with the Washington Post executive staff and publisher mediating between administration officials and the rich-and-powerful was bad, anti-democratic, and possibly illegal (various lobbying restrictions acts)?


Posted by: sphealey | July 2, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

No surprise here. A sleazy town with 2 sleazy papers, littered with neocon scums, conspiring against the public.

Posted by: dogsbestfriend | July 2, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Hire Fromkin as the new Director of Journalism Ethic!

Posted by: TomPaine2 | July 2, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Scapegoat the hell out of that "new marketing arm" who must have had an amazing amount of pull to get all those people on-board with the idea AND maintain their loose-cannon cred!

Posted by: obblehit | July 2, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

The old way was to get everybody out on a big yacht and then talk money over food and drinks. Nobody could leave that way. I'm getting old.

Posted by: Dermitt | July 2, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

If Katherine Weymouth had any integrity she would now resign as publisher of the Post. Of course, if she had any integrity, she would not have been pimping the Post in the first place.

Posted by: lowercaselarry | July 2, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

It is now clear that the ire directed to Hiatt, Milbank, Cohen, Broder, the American Enterprise Institute gang, etc is beside the point. Bad as they all are, the real problem is the publisher. No matter how she and the paper try to spin it, they were attempting to sell access to the staff, as well as administration and Congressional officials. As numerous commentators have pointed out, well funded and competent lobbyists do not need to pay for a dinner party in order to lobby Congress and the executive branch. The real target here are the reporters and editors. This is utterly corrupt, much worse than the Los Angeles Times scandal concerning the Staples Center. Weymouth must resign.

Posted by: dwells3 | July 2, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Anyone know when the WaPo Escort service will be launched?

Posted by: dogsbestfriend | July 2, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Help me understand how a business, whose sole purpose is to report and comments on news, has a 'marketing department' so totally devoid of journalistic ethics? You can buy a ton of toothpick weanies for $25,000. So where was the extra money going? Sorry, stupid question. In the words of your own, Milbank, "WAPO you are such a d...k!

Posted by: BBear1 | July 2, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

If there is any integrity left at the Post, the following would happen.

1. There will be an article ASAP outlining what really happened here, led by the Ombudsman as independent investigator. They should give Froomkin or Bob Somerby a short term deal to support to insure integrity.

2. Alexander will first march into the powers that be's office with his contract in hand, repeat the clauses about access in context to the Froomkin stonewall he got and the lie from Weymouth that she is "away" and can't be interviewed, when she could be for Howie "media apologist" Kurtz. If they don't agree to immediately give him what he is supposed to have, he should resign in protest.

3. Charles Pelton should already be cleaning out his desk.

4. If the facts point to Weymouth being aware of this, she should immediately resign.

5. If the facts point to anyone in the senior editorial staff being aware, they should immediately resign.

Then the Post should sit down and figure out what business they are in. If the parent company can't make enough profit, they should spin the Post off as a non-profit, take the tax write off, and let people who care about integrity run the show.

Posted by: janowicki | July 2, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

The poster who said "Froomkin must be delighted today that he's not associated with WaPo" got it exactly right. I speak from experience, having just been similarly kicked to the curb after a 35 year career. It's damn scary, but also a blessing though, not having to work for weasels anymore.

As a result I might have to curtail my WaPo sub a little sooner than planned, but if they keep trodding this downward path, it may not seem like such a big loss after all. And that would be sad.

Posted by: laboo | July 2, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

This is obviously a case of a few rotten apples. It does not and should not reflect on any of the higher ups. Punish the real culprits harshly and make an example of them.

Posted by: fonkyou | July 2, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

So as of 3:42 Weymouth had not returned to Washington? Very telling.

She came out of Williams and Connelly and like most lawyers who for too long breathe that rarified air she holds herself above the law. She is a child of the oligarchy and as such holds herself above us all. She will not resign, she will not return, she doesn't get it. She has no clue as to what would be the right thing to do and is surrounded by toadies and an idiot uncle as advisors.

She is like the Tsar in that she will stand stupified as the whole enterprise rots around her and then flee or be taken in the night. I hope her life has a second act.

This is a sad, sad day for Washington and for those who knew and admired Mrs.Graham.

Posted by: SoCali | July 2, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

When I read about this on Friday morning, I thought that surely, it had to be a joke.

This has got to be the darkest days in the history of the Washington Post.

However, this incident does give us ordinary Americans a good look at how things work inside the beltway.

Posted by: bobbaillie | July 2, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Charles Pelton was probably just doing what he was hired to do, and for that matter it was probably exactly what he had been instructed specifically to do. Kris Coratti, the flack, should be fired for making a bad situation much worse by lying, calling the flier a draft when it had actually been published.

It's funny that Pelton himself raises the Lincoln Bedroom comparison. In the Post's world, I should think Katharine Weymouth's dinner table is as perfect an analog as he could find.

And this incident wouldn't reverberate if your editors hadn't been lapdogs to power for the past decade.

Posted by: pundito | July 2, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, friend, it's much more than a PR disaster. It's a visible incarnation of all that is wrong with how the political class--including your "reporters and editors"--operates.

Time for some resignations, starting with the queen bee and any of her editors who bought into this scheme.

Posted by: protagoras | July 2, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

I am wondering what one wears to a newspaper's funeral. Especially a suicide. No consecrated ground for you, sad little corpse.

Posted by: leftwingrightbrain | July 2, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse we know why Froomkin was let go. You can't have honest people working for the post right now.

Posted by: playa_brotha | July 2, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Since the flier states there will be access to administration officials, did Obama officials know of this?

Posted by: angie12106 | July 2, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I read on one of the blogs that the Wapo has become a massage parlor.

Then a great wit countered that it's now a message parlor.

You get the drift.....

Posted by: barbara255 | July 2, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

This is not a public relations disaster.

This is an ethics disaster.

Posted by: Pennysmom | July 2, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Did MSNBC/NBC pay Obama for Brian Williams to sleep with him?
With MSNBC/NBC's continuing slobbering love affair with Obama, perhaps Chuck Todd and Olbermann are next.

Posted by: angie12106 | July 2, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Puhleeze. The Bushington Post hasn't had any ethics in years.

I hope Dan Froomkin is getting a big kick out of this. I sure am.

Posted by: ccatmoon | July 2, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

'p.r. disaster' ...?

man, you still don't get it -- it's a friggin ethics disaster.

Posted by: mycomment | July 2, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

No, folks, this isn't the day the Post died. That day was long, long ago; this latest debacle is simply the result of many years of arrogance and overconfidence. The Post is so used to commiting journalistic atrocities without consequences I'm sure it never imagined it could get called out on one of them. Those of you still foolish enough to subscribe, even after Froomkin, put your money where your mouths are and cancel now.

Posted by: judith2 | July 2, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

This explains a lot.

Posted by: SarahBB | July 2, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

This was really a disappointing story. I hope that the person who came up with this idea is fired.

Posted by: kentrose | July 2, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Even worse, from Howard Kurtz's "news article" on this outrage: "Two Post executives familiar with the planning, who declined to be identified discussing internal planning, said the fliers appear to be the product of overzealous marketing executives."

Post executives refuse to be identified??? That makes me ill. What ever happened to the Post's so-called policy of not wanting to use off-the-record quotes?

You just don't get it. You never will. You must all be dull witted.

And by the way, Howard Kurtz is not even close to a media critic. I don't know why he keeps being referred to as one.

Posted by: thuff7 | July 2, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Since your coverage of regional news is lousy (your idea of "region" being any Maryland county that can be classified as aBurbaDC) there's little point in bothering to read the Post online anymore, expecting to find anything but desperate money-grubbing.

AP, the Post, and on and on, boat-anchor dodo operations in the news universe.

As much as I like reading a paper newspaper, I find more insightful commentary among the blogging community. I can get national news from Huffington Post, the BBC and such.

If the Post wants "new revenue streams" start by having you top executives work from July to December for free, and hire some good reporters who understand electronic news media.

Posted by: dadadata | July 2, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

All these denials sound hollow. Weymouth admits she had that idea about events including newsroom members, and Brauchli admit she talked with him about it. And now they're both shocked that the resulting flyer allegedly distorts their intents? Excuse me pls, but which lobbyist would pay 25000 bucks for the kind of harmless teaparty Brauchli and Weymouth are now talking about? This doesn't make any sense!

Posted by: Gray62 | July 2, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who doesn't believe that the marketing people did exactly what Katherine Weymouth wanted will be interested in looking at some swamp land I'd like to sell. The only disappointment to Ms Weymouth is that someone leaked her plan to pimp her staff to DC lobbyists.

Posted by: infuse | July 2, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

ha,ha,ha,ha,ha! Good job, folks!! I hear the Columbia School of Journalism is planning a case study. Keep working on the spin.

Posted by: formerloyalWPreader | July 2, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

"Anyone know when the WaPo Escort service will be launched?"

I a WaPo live discussion today, Ana Marie Cox wrote "I AM AVAILABLE!" This all caps statement seems to indicate the start of the marketing campaign, certainly carefully prepared by the same folks that brought us the "rent a journalist" flyer. And in order not to turn any potential customers away, many of them suffering under the Madoff desease, Ana Marie followed up with "PRICES NEGOTIABLE.".
Sure sounds like they're talking business!

Posted by: Gray62 | July 2, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable for so many reasons.

First, to describe this as a "PR disaster" for The Post is like describing Watergate as a "PR disaster" for Richard Nixon. It is not just bad PR, it is absolutely, totally, ethically wrong! It's not PR: it's ethics, stupid.

I would love to question Weymouth and Brauchli under oath. Do you really think some low-level conference flunky would offer her and her home for $25k dinner guests without her knowledge and permission? It is a bald-face lie. Would she really testify under oath that she never saw the flyer?

Do you really think a fancy, color flyer with the CEO's name on it gets mailed out from The Post to a bunch of important people without being vetted? And now they claim it's a "draft copy". Oh please!

The handling of this stinks like a rotting cover-up.

Posted by: philsherrod | July 2, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Brauchli and Weymouth don't even understand what the problem is. It's not just that the Post was planning to sell access (explicitly described as non-confrontational schmoozing sessions with the powerful). It's also that the Post thinks of itself as so intimately identified with the powerful. This disgusting development follows the many instances during the Bush Admin. in which the press, including the Post, enabled multiple disasters (including the war in Iraq) due in part to its corrupt relationships with its subjects and its excessive obsession with "access." Now this tawdry affair. What more obvious evidence could there be that the Post has utterly lost any sense of the press's role in a democracy? It's not just time for the Post to fire Brachli and seek a new publisher. It's time for the Post either to transform its entire culture or just fold up the whole charade and go away. Truly sickening.

Posted by: ThompsonMT | July 2, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

This is a tough one for the ombudsman. It's like the work of Clark Little - to do your job correctly can be muy peligro.

Posted by: | July 2, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

First, too much coverage of Virginia Tech sports and now this... at least we have the integrity of the Sports Bog that remains...

Posted by: BenzoTim | July 2, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

To be fair, I have to admit I believe its possible the flyer was really only the brainchild of that newcomer Charles Pelton (what did he do before? Make advertisements for donut stands?).
After all, come on, you don't seek "customers" for an event costing 25k bucks in the same way you spread the info about bagel bargains! I guess you would directly call your target group, being careful not to leave a paper trail. After all, it's obvious that a meeting sponsorship for $25000 has to deliver something of equal value to the buyer, and that this is a somewhat, uh, "indecent proposal". Don't forget, it was proposed to be "off the record", indicating a secrecy that would certainly have been important for the "sponsor". And for WaPo brass, too, of course. Isn't it a bit counterproductive to produce flyers for this, and then maybe put them under windshield wipers in K-Street?

But, well, that's what the Post gets from cost cutting! Cheap staffers only know how to manage cheap businesses. Who knows, maybe Pelton even ordered some balloons with the text "Exclusive WaPo contacts! Only $25000!! Call 800.611.POST"

Posted by: Gray62 | July 2, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

It is quite telling that both Mr. Brauchi's and Ms. Weymouth's first public statements were less than forthright. Describing the glossy advertisement for these access parties as a 'draft' is at best an attempt to bring confusion to the story. Are they implying that it was leaked to the lobbyist? To others? Why the professional appearance and wide distribution?

On top of this, apparently Mr. Brauchi's initial statement that he 'had no idea' has some qualifiers attached.

And you, Mr. Alexander: referring to this as a public relations disaster is either ignorant or disingenuous. This was an a plot by the executives of the Post to sell access to those who would shape public policies to their liking.

The plans for the Salons and the attempts to explain them so far are, to me, equally disgusting.

Shame on you all.

Posted by: ngoff99 | July 2, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

The only thing the marketer did wrong was tell the truth about how the Post works.

And that's really bad -- the Post can't even hire decent marketers any more.

Posted by: lambert_strether | July 2, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

"... at least we have the integrity of the Sports Bog that remains..."

But maybe only until Steinberg's booky sells his story to Vanity Fair...
Only joking, only joking!

Posted by: Gray62 | July 2, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm thinking that the best reason to buy the post is to line the bottom of my bird cage so my parrot can do to (on) it what they've been feeding to us about this story.

Posted by: mccarpen | July 2, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

According to usually deniable sources, the Post management now also abandoned that other plan by marketing genius Charles Pelton: Making the business more attractive for the new target group by rebranding it "The Poshington Host".

Posted by: Gray62 | July 2, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Not merely a nest of access junkies - we knew that - but an access dealership.

Not just a coven of courtiers - as was becoming increasingly obvious - but an adjunct of the court itself.

Apparent business model: use pretend newspaper subsidiary to advance interests of holding company.

Posted by: AlanDownunder | July 2, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

"dogsbestfriend | July 2, 2009 7:41 PM "

Re escort service. They will have exclusive one on one introductions to White House interns for the price of a presidential speaking fee. This may be a bit pricey for some, but for the right person this sounds worth it. You have to know who you are selling to.

Posted by: OldAtlantic | July 2, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

A few days ago, when Dan Froomkin's departure was being discussed in this blog, I made a snarky comment asking just how much the neocons were paying Fred Hiatt under the table to run the tired, worthless columns of Krauthammer, Kagan, Kristol and Gerson. Now, with today's revelation that the Post intended to quietly sell access to lobbyists, that earlier comment doesn't seem like snark at all.

It suddenly, and chillingly, seems legitimate to ask a question that up till now I would have left to the conspiracy nuts and Bush haters, namely: IS The Post selling space on their Op-Ed page to AIPAC, the GOP, etc. to run this trash? (Witness the publication today of yet another "guest" rightwingnut column by, this time around, warmonger and general idiot John Bolton.) I cannot think of a rational reason that such embarrassing tripe has taken over that section lock, stock and barrel; and absent rationality, the only explanation that comes to mind is that cash is changing hands here.

Ridiculous? Last week I would have said so, but after today... ehhhh, not so much. After all, if The Post would sell space in its publisher's own living room to raise money, then it's certainly capable of selling space on its Op-Ed page, isn't it?

Posted by: whatmeregister | July 2, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse

It's comforting to know you are merely providing an "escort service" and are not actually engaged in "prostitution". (And, considering the "facilitator", the prices sound quite reasonable. Sounds like a fine young lady, with an interesting biography, not to mention an echanting photo.)

Posted by: experiencecountsus | July 2, 2009 11:50 PM | Report abuse

The Post seems hell-bent on regaining the tawdry reputation that it had in its heyday, under Edward McLean during the Teapot Dome scandal.

Posted by: TedColtman | July 2, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

This is a sad day.

I recall well the era when the MBAs began to take over the Post. Raytheon was engaged to develop an electronic system for editing (something Lou Grant had had for several years prior) and composition. One would think the efficiencies gained would push deadlines back. But no. The MBAs decreed earlier deadlines, sacrificing the currency of the news and any efficiencies gained in the handling of copy, in the name of the bottom line. The journalists on staff were appalled, and some let go for voicing their objections.

Now it seems the marketeers are holding sway. Do not tell me they are renegades. One does not book an evening in the life of either the publisher or the executive editor (never mind the publisher's home) without explaining what one is up to. That would be true at the Paeonian Springs Weekly Bugle as well as the Post.

Salons have been around for centuries. Similar gatherings have been happening for years in Georgetown, many of them at Mrs. Graham's house. The most that might have been expected was that those invited to participate might consider contributing to a charity that Mrs. Graham favored, but not to the commercial success of her newspaper.

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, "Ms. Weymouth, I knew Katharine Graham, and you are no Katharine Graham."

This is pay to play, plainly, purely and simply. It smacks of rank amateurism at the highest levels, which would include the boardroom, and abandonment of the profesionals in the newsroom.

It is also a sad end to the good reputation of a proud newspaper. If you're that desperate for cash, you might as well sell your presses for scrap and take your place in the blogosphere. The corporation that calls your shots for you has lost sight of your mission, to the point that citing The Washington Post will no longer have any more value, will lend no more credibility, than "I read it on the Internet."

Posted by: ScottinMaine | July 3, 2009 12:05 AM | Report abuse

More than a decade ago we Angelenos had the Los Angeles Times Staples magazine disaster.

In a nutshell, the publisher of the LA Times ( a breakfast cereal executive with no journalism experience) gave Staples (the office retailer whose corporate name is attached to the basketball arena) a glossy advertising magazine in the paper, under the guise of editiorial. The wall between the editorial and business side of the paper was broken, irrevocably.

The LA Times never really recovered journalistically--and its subsequent crash and burn as a business is well chronicled.

Man, when the marketers get involved in journalism, it is seriously bad news. (Pardon the pun) . The dolt who dreamed up this WaPo scheme needs to be canned immediately.

Posted by: octobass | July 3, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

I've been a loyal Post reader for over 30 years. This has to be the stupidiest attempt at raising money I've ever seen. Just the concept that the Post was willing to sell face time with reporters, editors and administration officals is contrary to anything that approaches journalist integrity. Not only should you be ashamed of yourselves for trying this ridiculous scheme but heads should roll for this one. Whoever came up with this idea and/or supported it obviously doesn't belong at the Post.

Good luck with damage control on this one as the Post will now be the butt of journalistic jokes for years to come.

(This post is written by a fan of the Post. I can just imagine what the Fox people are saying.)

Posted by: blund | July 3, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

The firing of Dan Froomkin now begins to make a little more sense. Didn't want him on board when the WaPo Influence/Access Red Tag Sale was held.

Posted by: flatlander100 | July 3, 2009 12:46 AM | Report abuse

This is like the WAPO finally coming out of the closet. They are finally announcing that they are peddeling influence for the Obama administration.

Price is 25K to 250K.

Posted by: Jaymand | July 3, 2009 1:03 AM | Report abuse

Thus ends the last sad day of Mrs. Graham's legacy. Having followed this story all day and watched it reach hurricane force on the Web I am still of the opinion that it all comes down to poor, sad, little, doyenne manque Sally Quinn.

Katherine Weymouth, she of the thick head, is a mere bit player in this tragedy. She was a child when the forces that have finally played out today were unleashed. For it was Katherine Graham who missed the cue that her protege and friend Ben Bradlee had made a deal with the desk diving devil and it was at that point that the tide turned down.

Touche Sally! You have finally beaten all the late great ladies of the Georgetown Salon who saw what you were and would never let you in. Your's will be the most infamous salon of all albeit one that will never convene.

Posted by: SoCali | July 3, 2009 1:18 AM | Report abuse

Hint for the Post's marketing department: "Confrontational? No." describes a dead newspaper, not one trying to raise legitimate money.

Posted by: mattflaschen | July 3, 2009 1:19 AM | Report abuse

Two big events: Froomkin, along with Dana Priest the Post's best journalist, gets fired, and a corrupt "pay-to-play" scheme is set into motion, and evenutally uncovered, at the paper.

Is the juxtaposition simply fortuitous? Or was Froomkin let go because he was on to the paid-access scandal?

Mr. Ombudsman, you need to be MUCH more probing in your investigations.

Posted by: trobador | July 3, 2009 1:28 AM | Report abuse

When Little Debbie Snackcakes Howell gave up typing this column, I had some hopes that the Washington Post would actually have a real Ombudsman.

Mr. Alexander, this is not a PR disaster.

This shows the state of the soul of the Washington Post, which is insiders collaborating with insiders.

The real sad thing here is that even the Washington Post Editors and "Marketing Department" know that the Post will sell its integrity for a few thousand dollars.

Your soul is not even worth much and you know it.

Sad and pathetic.

Posted by: wapoisrightwingrag | July 3, 2009 1:35 AM | Report abuse

As another poster alluded to. This really does spell an obituary of the Washington Post.

Sad, but this is an unintended consequence of the Internet.


Posted by: Jaymand | July 3, 2009 1:36 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: blund | July 3, 2009 12:28 AM;
Right on.

I was just skimming the comments, but I think saw about 50-50 on the right-wing/left-wing side of the conspiracy. That's kinda funny.

Either way. And, I'll try to give *some* people at WaPo credit, this whole concept was WAY wrong. I hope it's genuine outrage from the newsroom, but even if it is, it's in question now.

For myself, I think I'm going to have trouble reading any Wapo article until I see a full front-page article, apology, and listing of former Post employees.

Also convenient that this happened after Gene's last chat... Just to add to the conspiracy.

Fix this now, WaPo, or I'm gonna switch to Examiner. Please. Please? I don't want to read Nazi propaganda...

Posted by: NotForYou1 | July 3, 2009 1:37 AM | Report abuse

Boy, I hope Warren Buffett is taking notice of this disaster and will at last dump Berkshire Hathaway's investment in the Post.

Warren's always been quite loyal to Katherine Graham's "baby," but with this kind of stink surrounding it, I hope he'll take a fresh look. I can't imagine he'd tolerate this sort of immorality among his other BH investments, so why this one.

[Started subscribing to the Post in 1969. Quit in 2004. Too bad I can't unsubscribe a few more times to show my disgust.]

Posted by: Mauimom | July 3, 2009 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Okay -- forget the damned flier.

These are the facts about the "event"

1) It was to be held in the publishers home
2) It was a "closed" event; no public access
3) It was an expensive/paid event
4) New people were to be there
5) It was an "off the record" event
6) It promised to connect lobbyists with politicians
7) Single entity sponsorship was allowed

Well, what more do you need? Who cares if the marketing flier was approved or not, and who cares if anyone saw it or not.

When Weymouth says "it completely misrepresented what we were trying to do", I had to laugh. So, what it is that she was actually trying to do?

I wish this news was outed after the first event. We could have had a list of names to work with, and things would have been a lot more interesting.

Mike Allan.. you just can't be trusted to keep the "surprise" in a surprise party.

Posted by: kblgca | July 3, 2009 2:08 AM | Report abuse

Ex-Post employee Mike Allen exposes Weymouth "pay for play" scheme.

Now ex-Post employee Dan Froomkin is out there too.

This should prove to be an interesting next few months for the Post.

Andrew, I sure hope you're eligible for overtime pay. I think you'll be earning quite a lot of it.

Posted by: whatmeregister | July 3, 2009 2:35 AM | Report abuse

Layoff and downsizing are the only ethical response to revenue troubles.

Posted by: blasmaic | July 3, 2009 3:01 AM | Report abuse

To commenter who wrote:

"People are going to remember today as the day the Washington Post died."

Haven't you noticed? The Post is already dead. Have you read the editorial pages lately?

Posted by: crm1951 | July 3, 2009 3:04 AM | Report abuse


How low can the Washington Post go? Apparently, as low as Lally Weymouth wants. She already has Fred Hiatt, Charles Krauthammer, and David Broder on board, not to mention publishing the Kagans and Kristols and Wolfowitzes of the right-wing world. The very same people who promoted a bloody, illegal, immoral, and expensive War on Iraq. All at a high cost to America's moral standing in the entire world (not to mention the hundreds of thousands of innocent, dead people).

The Washington Post just fired their best columnist, Dan Froomkin (apologies to Gene Robinson and Harold Meyerson) and yet this publisher, an heir to Katharine Graham, has agreed with her marketing and financial people to sell access to public figures for very filthy lucre for private dinners at her home. How far from investigating Watergate have we come? Selling out one's integrity, an entire paper's integrity? For money? How desperate are they that they would sell out their morals? Apparently, they didn't think twice about it. Apparently, they have none.

Will Howard Kurtz, the media critic, or the ombudsman for the Post call Madame Weymouth out for her obvious ethical and journalistic transgressions? I doubt it. They're both suck-ups to inside-the-Beltway power and unlikely to want to tell the real truth of it all. Face it, the once-great Washington Post is now nothing but a hometown rag without a shred of real moral credibility. Thanks to Madame Weymouth and Fred Hiatt and their morally slimey ilk, like Howard Kurtz and the present ombudsman.

Posted by: radlib1 | July 3, 2009 3:39 AM | Report abuse

these so called "salons" were yo be "at the home of publisher Katharine Weymouth"

and you expect us to believe she didn't know every fookin detail of this plan ???

what kind of publisher loans her home to a marketing schemem she doesn't know about ???

and what kind of ombudsman buys that pathetic lie ???

howie kurtz had his opening paragraph re-writter correctly by a fookin reader in the comments attached to his subterfuge of an excuse

have you no sense of shame

at long last, have you no shame at all

the world is watching, andy

Posted by: donewithyou1 | July 3, 2009 3:42 AM | Report abuse

Departments don't produce work product and make decisions particular people in those departments do.

Multiple people can be responsible for a failure but systems they rely on agents to make them work be they departments, governments or bodies politic, have no intentions and act through their incumbent agents.

Posted by: BrettPaatsch1 | July 3, 2009 4:01 AM | Report abuse

The problem with Weymouth's comment is the event was going to be held in her home on s specified date. NO ONE in marketing would set up and distribute a flyer like this about an event to be held in her home with her as the host without clearing it with her first. Since the flyer specifies July 21, 2009 at 6:30pm they would also have had to clear the date with her and the other senior staff who were to attend. People at her level don't have spontaneous media events scheduled for them without clearing it with them. They may do one on their own but the marketing department scheduling it for her. If you believe it I have a bridge in NY you might want to buy and some land in Florida that's for sale cheap.

Holding special events of any kind in the Publisher's home would require prior approval before a single thing is mentioned to the public let alone printed and distributed or an event like this especially one with a date certain in the annoucment. No one in the marketing department in any company I've ever worked for to authorize the use of the CEO's home and the CEO's time along with the time of other major executives without running it up the ladder and getting sign offs.

My guess is that if you really look you'll find her or her peoples approval of the program. You'll also find the approval and scheduling info for the senior news managers. They are busy people too and no one is going to schedule them to come to an event and not let them know well in advance. The news people might not have known that it was a pay to play event but Weymouth would have to have known as part of the presentation she got to hold the event in the first place. But thoroughly investigating this and providing transparency that would be really embarrassing and the ombudsman if they wanted to keep their job would never ever go looking for documents like that.

Wonder if they are thinking of firing the marketing person who put this out? Bet they don't because they if they are smart have copies of all the approvals as well as other emails that would prove very embarrassing and useful in a wrongful termination lawsuit that would surely follow a termination

Posted by: airedaletwo | July 3, 2009 4:50 AM | Report abuse

I also find it difficult to pass this initiative off as simply over zealous marketing. The thought that an ambitious marketer was at the center of the plans does ring true. But they surely had an idea what their bosses were looking for. An ambitious publisher looking to make her mark is certainly suspect. While this particular effort probably did not penetrate into the news room, there is still a question whether the underlying attitudes have had some success penetrating the journalistic side of the business. One puzzle that remains to be solved is why the Post feels the need to work at rehabilitating the neocons and their failed policies by prominent repeated appearances on the Op-Ed page.

Posted by: dnjake | July 3, 2009 6:28 AM | Report abuse

Marcus Brauchli says he "had no idea," but also acknowledges taking part in fairly detailed discussions. That's not having "no idea;" that's being in on it.

A public relations disaster? I think it's a little more fundamental than that, friend.

Posted by: tresangelas | July 3, 2009 6:50 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Alexander, I guess after the ladt weeks you must already feel light Scott McClellan, whe he worked for the White House. Watch out that you don't repeat the error he regrets now, to become too uncritically toe the official line, at the expense of your dignity!

And with that in mind, pls review what you wrote: "The problem: The Post often decries those who charge for access to public officials." Now, really, do you think the hipocrisy is the MAIN problem? No. As lots of other readers have pointed out, the main problem is the lack of ethics that is showing in this decision. There is simply no way to sell exclusive and "off the record" meetings with newsroom members at the publisher's place, for the price of $25000, without this raising dire question about the ethics involved. Every potential "sponsor" would expect a very real value for such an amout of money. Come on, the price per plate for the "customer" will be higher than at fundraising dinners with political candidates!

And this comes directly after a heated discussion about the Post's missing ethical values, where the editors and publishers think it's no problem to write an editorial against torture, and to allow at the same time neocons like Krauthammer to advocate that inhume pratice which is against all internationally recognized human rights! The refusal to make a determined stand for values shows the moral ambiguity that rules at the Post. Several readers have pointed out that this, say, "wide stance" isn't what they expect from "their" paper, and that they would prefer a more traditional, value based publishing policy, regardless of partisan considerations. The Post shouldn't be everything for everyone, but a publication that holds up journalistic values and ehtics.

Sadly, it looks like the management either ignores this, or is outright incompetent. So, it seems like a misguided approach to focuse the costcutting on the staffers and even reporters. The owner should aim higher if the really want to "reinvent" their paper. And this recent scandal shows that this is becoming more urgent every single day.

Posted by: Gray62 | July 3, 2009 7:03 AM | Report abuse

The Washington Examiner has the actual flier.

Posted by: tresangelas | July 3, 2009 7:16 AM | Report abuse

It's looking more and more like the Old Soviet News Agency "TASS", is turning out to be the Paragon of the Free Press Business. At least They were honest about being the mouthpiece for the Propaganda arm of the Soviet Government. The Post doesn't have that integrety, trying to pass It-self off as a Reporter of News while selling It-self to the highest Bidder. Some mistakes should be Fatal and this is one that qualifies. You are not in the News Business, Your just in the Prostitution Business.

Posted by: mnlennon | July 3, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

What I find most remarkable is the very loud silence coming from the rest of the establishment media. Perhaps it is a form of professional courtesy -- like individual prostitutes keeping to their designated lamp post and not referring to each other as "wh*r*s" in polite company.

Posted by: experiencecountsus | July 3, 2009 7:31 AM | Report abuse

One can only shake one's head at the degree to which these people are wrapped up in their own sense of self importance. The real product that a newspaper sells is credibility, and the Post now stands naked without any.This is not what we need in a democracy.

And by the way, what on earth were those nimnulls at the White House thinking about to get involved in this?

Posted by: arthurshatz | July 3, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

That was a really trooper-like attempt to fall on the grenade, but it didn't work.

The WaPo has been DC's highest-paid hooker for decades now. Do you think anyone is surprised by this?

You sold your claim to the fourth estate long ago. Have fun in the tar pit.

Posted by: bjornagain | July 3, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Your paper is nothing more than a shill for the almighty dollar and your own liberal slant on politics.

I'll be glad to see the once vaunted Washington Post go the way of the DoDo bird. The lame excuse of blaming the Marketing Department is pathetic at best.

Posted by: thebloddletting | July 3, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

A Public Relations Disaster ? NO NO NO!

What the dishones dirty liberal POST did was CRIMINAL...........CRIMINAL........

And the rest of our corrupt left-ist MSM wolfpack press needs to report on this story too.....

Where in the HELL is the ASSOCIATED PRESS?

This can not stand we need MAJOR reforms in our "Free Left-wing Press".

They inserted themselves into the 2008 presidential elections and INSTALLED OBAMA.


Posted by: allenridge | July 3, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Thx, "tresangelas" for pointing out that he actual flier can be found at the Washington Exmainer. Hmm, btw, why isn't the coprus delicti posted here, Mr. Alexander? Don't you think you should be totally forthcoming and show the full extent and exact wording of that controversial offer?

As for the content, well, it is as bad as it had to be expected. A thinly veiled hint at sponsors being able to buy influence in the decisions: "An evening with the right people can alter the debate". A not really veiled offer to "create crucial relationships with Waswhington Post news executives" - i.e. buy influence over the publisher and editors. And big promises about Obama officials and lawmakers being present. How did the Post want to assure that, have they contacted "those powerful few" in advance?

That's a point that you really have to investigate, Mr. Alexander! It's simply not reasonable to assume Pelton would make such promises about the presence of "guests" from the administration and legislative if he wasn't damn sure the Post could deliver that. After all, he had to ensure the evening was worth $25000 to one "sponsor", or even $50000 for two sponsors! So, with whom did the Post talk about this, and who already accepted the invitation to the "salons"? Imho it's the ombudsman's job to deliver the answers! Or would you rather see them exposed by the Examiner or another publication?

Posted by: Gray62 | July 3, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

This is the first time I have been on the Wapo site since you let Mr. Froomkin go. I had vowed to never come back but this is just so outrageous I needed to add my comment. First, Public relations had nothing to do with this, it is a convenient excuse used by gutless managers who will not own up to their own corruption and incompetence. Secondly, health care reform is the most vital issue to the average American and yet all the major media outlets, especially your totally biased and out of touch Health reporters, keep regurgitating the special interest lines about how public options are unfair and will drive private insurance out of business and we average citizens should just shut up about this and take whatever scraps are tossed our way. This despite every poll showing that a super majority of Americans want real health reform, but what do we know, we are just the ones receiving incompetent care and going bankrupt trying to pay for it. Whatever happened to the ideal that media was supposed to stand up to power and the status quo and be a representative for the average citizen? Well, I think we all know that you have become one of those same elite, let them eat cake insiders who don't want to associate with the great unwashed masses. No wonder nobody wants to read you anymore, because if we want to read somebody who actually practices journalism, like say Nico Pitney, Glen Greenwald, Dan Froomkin, we know we won't find them here. Good luck staying in business, because your time is short, thank goodness.

Posted by: k60jordan | July 3, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

A disgrace! Another sad day for American journalism. WaPo beds down with lobbyists for $$$. Incredible really. Your moral bankruptcy is appalling. Heads should roll (the wrong ones - e.g. Froomkin - already have). What horrible revelation is next?

Posted by: rwassmer | July 3, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Further evidence that the Post doesn't understand that this is News. First reporting of it by the post was on the Ombudsman's blog. And the reporting in the paper was not in main news or Metro, but in Style, as though this was just a fashion or feature story, on July 3. Granted, it was on the front of that section, but even so, it seems the Post purposely wanted to pretend this wasn't "news" but something else.

Bad form. As a new subscriber to the Post, but one who has respected it for years before moving to this area, I am very disappointed.

Posted by: lakedestiny | July 3, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

@Gray62, do u really think Mr. Alexander wasn't knowledgeable about this in the first place? No, when profits take a dive, so do morals. So does respectability. So does Integrity. I tell you now, people are scrambling to save their sorry butts, and you won't get an ounce of reality from the WaPo on this one!

Facts are facts, and there's no way to really skew this now the puppy has been porked.

Posted by: thebloddletting | July 3, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Weymouth has shown herself ethically unsuitable for the job and should step down now for good of the newspaper. Any editors involved in this scandal should also find new jobs.

Posted by: FredFriendlysGhost | July 3, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Well, now I see other papers are already providing answers on who would have attended and sponosred those "salons"! The NYT writes that "A few officials at the Department of Health and Human Services had been invited to the gathering, but no senior White House officials". But the LATimes affirmed that WaPo "also sent an invitation to the Obama administration's Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius". Plus, "Rep. Jim Cooper's office said the Tennessee Democrat received an invitation this week to attend a dinner on July 21 at the house of Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican, was also among those asked to attend.

In both cases, the invitations came as personal e-mails from Weymouth's office."

And them AP and NYT even cite an interview with Brauchli, showing there already was a sponsor: "Invitations to the event stated it was “underwritten by Kaiser Permanente.”" Excuse me pls, he tells that to a competing newspaper, but holds you in the dark? And Weymouth tells you othing about the invitations, as if she blieves they will stay secret that way? What an affront!

Really, what is an ombudsman good for if he provides even less answers than reporters from other papers? Like in the Froomkin story, former WaPo staffers (Harris, Allen) get better and more informations than you. Actually, the Politico is much better at doing your job, because it sure looks like editors and managers don't tell you anything of any importance, Mr. Alexander! You're always fed only PR phrases, designed to hide the scandalous details.

Now, are you a mere spokesperson for the Post, or the real advocate of its readers? Imho the answer should be obvious, and it is leaves you with only one option: Ask painful questions, and rigorously expose every single attempt at avoiding the answers! Or else you will simply become a laughingstock, like it happened to Scott McClellan.

So, pls stop playing this down with statements like this “comes pretty close to a public-relations disaster.”. It's much more dire than that, and this demands stronger words. Will you have the backbone to write them here?

Posted by: Gray62 | July 3, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

"@Gray62, do u really think Mr. Alexander wasn't knowledgeable about this in the first place?"

Well, bloddletting, as long as there is no hard evidence supporting your view, I will give Alexander the benefit of the doubt. And pls let's not forget that he isn't the real culprit here, but the editors and the publisher of the Post! In a certain way, Alexander is just another victim, because he is treated like a mere spokesperson instead of as the readers' advocate. That Weymouth holds back easily verifiable infos, and that Brauchli tells other papers (or news agencies) more details than his own ombudsman is a serious insult. I have to say, I really feel pity for Alexander.

Posted by: Gray62 | July 3, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

It's passably interesting that on Friday, the day after the story broke, the Post prints its version of what happened in the "Style" section, a haven for non-serious news and celebrity caca, while Page 1 is occupied by a fine story about what borders on evildoing in a government agency. Does anybody else recognize the similarity of the two stories? An outfit charged with serving the public (in one case, USDA, and in the other, the Post) caves in to greed?

Posted by: fredpowledge | July 3, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

The image of a bunch of rich snobs, Obama officials, and lobbyists sitting in The Salon, sipping cogniac, smoking cigars, and discussing how to take care of The Little People makes me want to puke. This scene is emblematic of the elite snobs who manage news at The Post.

You need to get out of The Salon and spend some time in a diner talking to ordinary people about how they feel about deficits that are out of control, rising joblessness, and the government taking over their health care. How about letting people decide for themselves what they want their future to be instead of making the decision in The Salon.

Ombudsman: If you have one ounce of integrity, you will thoroughly investigate this entire matter and give us all of the details. I want to know what did they know, and when did they know it. If you are uncomfortable investigating your CEO, then resign. But don't brush this off as a "public relations disaster". That's about like dismissing Auchwitz as just a P.R. disaster for the nazis.

Posted by: philsherrod | July 3, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: janowicki | July 2, 2009 2:01 PM

"BTW - Interesting parallel. Charles Pelton, "overzealous marketer" of access peddling? Remains gainfully employed. Dan Froomkin, the guy who calls this stuff out? Canned.

Tells us all we need to know, doesn't it?"

That was one of the first posts on this thread, and it's sure hard to argue with it. I notice that the New York Times played the story right on the front page, while the Post put it in the Style section.

Posted by: andym108 | July 3, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Can anyone please tell me how to get to the truth if the Wash Post itself is the subject of this sleasy influence peddling? We certainly have to turn elsewhere for it. Sally Quinn must be miffed and splilled the beans. Also please tell me why anyone would pay a dime for this product when it is obvious it is slanted news in favor of the Obama administration. Close the doors and let someone else report the NEWS.

Posted by: tlunde | July 3, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

What's to say, except it stinks to high heaven. Of course, that just adds to what is already coming out of DC.

Posted by: RobbyS | July 3, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

> As lots of other readers have pointed out,
> the main problem is the lack of ethics
> that is showing in this decision. There is
> simply no way to sell exclusive and "off
> the record" meetings with newsroom members
> at the publisher's place, for the price of
> $25000, without this raising dire question
> about the ethics involved.

Actually, I would say that the real problem is the secret, off-the-record, "collegial" meetings among "industry CEOs", Administration officials, and WaPo executives and reporters. Whether or not there is payment to the WaPo involved, there is no way that such meetings should EVER be taking place.


Posted by: sphealey | July 3, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Whoo hoo!

Poliitco? Front page of site.
Romanesko? Front page of site.
NYT? Front page of site.

WaPo? Spiked off front page of site.

Status report:
Charles Pelton, "overzealous marketer" and scapegoat? Remains gainfully employed.
Dan Froomkin, annoying guy who called out stuff like this? Remains canned.

Allowing Post executives to stonewall, and offer blind quotes? Yep, you betcha!


Sad what an ethical joke the Post has become.

Posted by: janowicki | July 3, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

They put the article in Style?!?!?!? that's just too rich. I suppose that was the place for it. If one scoured the section closely, one might find a small notice under the listings of canceled salons, soirees and fundraisers. It would only follow that any article with more details would be in the same section.

Good God! Is there a journalist left in the building?

Posted by: ScottinMaine | July 3, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

This is just sad. Everyday it seems the Post detaches itself more form journalism and reality. First Froomkin, then the bad, excuses, through to Milbank and Kurtz looking like children on TV. Now selling access to reporters and editorial staff. Hell just today the same day I read an article in the NYT about a mason lodge who’s members went nuts because a black man was admitted, causing a great stir, but in the post? Well Krauthammer has a piece declaring racism dead because we have a black prez.
Oh and lets not forget Kurtz admitting he would never do a piece questioning an Irish male reporters ability to cover another Irish male, then writes 1600 words questioning black women reporters ability to cover other black women.
I can only assume then, the post must have had a “salon” with a bunch of bigots this weekend and this is what we get?

Posted by: TheCaptainDamnIt | July 3, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"They put the article in Style?!"
This just seems to reflect the wishful thinking of those involved: 'No big deal, this simply was bad style. And it's really only that idiot Pelton's fault. Next time, we'll do this in a more secretive way. And now move on, pls, there's nothing interesting to see here!'

Posted by: Gray62 | July 3, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Putting this story in the "Styles" section is like putting a story about Jeff Dahmer, who murdered and ate his victims, in the "Food" section.

I guess a story about the hijackers flying planes into New York and D.C. would go in the "Travel" section.

A story about Iranian Muslims cutting of the heads of criminals for the enjoyment of a crowd in a soccer stadium should go in the "Entertainment" section.

The most appropriate place for this story marking the death of ethics at The Post is in "Obituaries". Because that is the well-deserved future for this sorry excuse for a newspaper.

Posted by: philsherrod | July 3, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

BTW - This what an actual media critic looks like on this subject. Bob Somerby, around since 1999, who every major media reads and will never, ever talk about publically or in print.

Posted by: janowicki | July 3, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

The best thing that will come out of this article will be the journalistic style of writing the "spin" the Post will put on it.

Maybe if you took your journalists on a fact-finding trip outside the Beltway, you just might find the cause of the demise of your newspaper.

Posted by: cindyalford32 | July 3, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

An exclusive salon at The Post!
Circulate with the publisher-host
And the powers that be
If you'll pay a huge fee
(And if word ever leaks this is toast!)

News Short n' Sweet by JFD8

Posted by: jd121 | July 3, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Ok... Why is this buried in the WP? Why not cleanse the WP with this being on the front page? Who at the White House had given some sort of tacit approval that Obama adminstration insiders would be attending the "salon?" Selling face-time to the tune of $250K really shows that the WP and other media outlets are in the tank for the Obama White House. I'll keep my Wall Street Journal subscription.

Posted by: miboard157 | July 3, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Given a "maximum of two sponsors per salon," I would like to know how The Washington Post planned to decide between "underwriters". Twenty-five thousand dollars per private cocktail party may sound like a lot of money to someone like me who can live comfortably on that amount for a year or so. To the sort of lobbyists who would have participated, however -- like a participant in the Teapot Dome Scandal is reported to have said, regarding the $100,000 involved, "A bagatelle to me . . . no more than twenty-five or fifty dollars to the ordinary individual" -- that is pocket change. Did The Washington Post intend to hold a lottery or merely pick a lobbyist whose point-of-view they already agreed with? (I recently quiped to my acquaintances that an honest journalist is one who only accepts graft in return for hawking ideas with which he already agrees. I was making a jest, but perhaps it was serendipity.)

Posted by: experiencecountsus | July 3, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

The flier was a draft, the campaign was never approved nor even pitched to Weymouth and the first event scheduled 3 weeks from now has been cancelled.

Are we really to believe that that rogue opperators inside the WAPO marketing department would actually schedule a dinner with the publisher for July 21st and not tell her 3 weeks prior???

Has G. Gordon Liddy planted moles in the WAPO marketing department?

Posted by: jackrussell1 | July 3, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

How nice to see that the Post's leadership decided, apparently after almost going ahead, that prostitution is not the best form of journalistic ethics. We are all reassured that Ms. Weymouth was "shocked! shocked!" that such things were about to happen in her very home.

Posted by: VonZeppelin | July 3, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

It's gone. What the Post was is gone and now I know it will never come back. Tortured, pathetic responses to what happened, placement in Style,(the one thing this debacle did not have is STYLE)and a publisher who is a four-star example of the Peter Principle. Time to turn off the phones, sell the furniture, shut the door and meet for the last time at a friendly bar.
It was great, for a while, just great.

Posted by: jbc11 | July 3, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

A Public Relations Disaster? You idiot. You guys just ruined one of the few real newspapers left and you call it a "A Public Relations Disaster?" You currupt greedy fools. A Public Relations Disaster! And to think you guys are the ones that broke Watergate. A Public Relations Disaster!!!!! Good bye a good riddance. This is that last time I consult the Post for anything. A Public Relations Disaster!!!!! Pathetic.

Posted by: bensonbark | July 3, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Let them eat cake! Weymouth announced at her salon.
The Post's senior news editor admits complete ignorance and the publisher says she is ignorant of what is happening in her own house. It is so pathetic to see our modern intellectual aristocrats exhibit incompetence and worse - just blame the help.

Posted by: marmalade1 | July 4, 2009 1:48 AM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight...the Washington Post charges special intrests ten to twenty thousand dollars to attend "parties" with Post newsroom reporters. Do the special intrests have to pay more to actually write the articles that appear in print? How much would it cost me to write a Krauthammer editorial?

Posted by: bolisalindalae | July 4, 2009 3:56 AM | Report abuse

I have written my own analysis, which you may find both informative and entertaining:

Posted by: experiencecountsus | July 4, 2009 4:26 AM | Report abuse

Well, this just confirms what we have all known for a long time, there is no transparent unbiased reporting within the mainstream media. And they wonder why we hate them.

Posted by: onecent100 | July 4, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Increasingly the rich and powerful in this nation are behaving like British Royalty in the Golden Age. The arrogance towards the "Common People" is so extremely pathological now that servants of the Post's titled personages (IE: Weymouth, saw nothing wrong in setting up an exclusive tea party for favored.

Why are people shocked that the Post chose the Style Section to disclose the story? Isn't that the section where news coverage of a visit to Washington by the Queen of England would have been published?

Posted by: lahhtims | July 4, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

This paid salon event what was a shock but was more surprising was how crass the concept was and then, subsequently, how dishonestly the whole event was handled by the leadership. Weymouth and Brauchli sounded like two bit Texas congressmen caught with inexpensive floozies in Matamoros. We expected more.

For too long the Washington press has ridden on the same golden carriages and attended the same money fueled events as have our elected "representatives". There was always the illusion of a thin veil that symbolized they were not on the same take....until now.

Enter Weymouth and Brauchli who can't do the right thing but are certainly very quick in lying baldly about their involvement with the new, now explicit, lower ethical standards for the Post. I can't wait for the editorial board and the constantly conflicted, Fred Hiatt, to wade in and add some clarity.

Posted by: BobSanderson | July 4, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

This paid salon event was a shock but was more surprising was how crass the concept was and then, subsequently, how dishonestly the whole event was handled by the leadership. Weymouth and Brauchli sounded like two bit Texas congressmen caught with inexpensive floozies in Matamoros. We expected more.

For too long the Washington press has ridden on the same golden carriages and attended the same money fueled events as have our elected "representatives". There was always the illusion of a thin veil that symbolized they were not on the same take....until now.

Enter Weymouth and Brauchli who can't do the right thing but are certainly very quick in lying baldly about their involvement with the new, now explicit, lower ethical standards for the Post. I can't wait for the editorial board and the constantly conflicted, Fred Hiatt, to wade in and add some clarity.

Posted by: BobSanderson | July 4, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

"NY Times: WaPo's Publisher Sold Her Paper's Editorial Integrity."

No credibility.


Posted by: getalife1 | July 4, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Let me congratulate you on this new business plan; it's a major improvement. In the old days, grandmother Katharine Graham invited you to dinner (her expense) and either you tattled then, later, or never got invited back. That means that in the good old days the Post bribed up front. Granddaughter Katharine's plan is clearly better, since the mark pays up front and the Post may or may not come through later. Disregard the few hundred adverse comments and move on!

Posted by: draynold | July 4, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Weymouth needs to resign, or be fired. I don't care if she's the namesake and graddaughter of Katharine Graham and has a wall full of blue-chip degrees. This episode has made a laughingstock of the Washington Post and destroyed its credibility. It's traceable back to her. The only way the Post can recover from this (if they can) is to ditch her, loudly and clearly.

Posted by: bob5540 | July 4, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

The failure of the Post to place Kurtz's story on the front page is unforgivable. The fact that this Salon idea was even considered was stupid. Andy, you need to write a column explaining what happened to clear the air. The publisher needs to be taken to the woodshed, or maybe left there. Does she have any clue what integrity is? And don't give me any of that crap about she didn't see the fliers or so on and so on. She knew what was going on. You don't have such dinners at your house...PERIOD! And the news folks have some explaining to do, too! They obviously knew something was going down. The only Post reporter who comes off clean here is Howard Kurtz...and they buried him off the front page, for God's sake!

Posted by: PaulShultz1 | July 4, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

So, the business side caused a conflict with the newsroom and the traditional role of the 4th estate in our society. Not the first time, and given the need to push the edge of the envelope just to stay in business, probably not the last. Poorly handled, probably. Indicative of a corrupt culture at The Post, most definitely not! Ms. Weymouth was handed the reins of a division of a company that is, in addition to the industry, in the midst of an historical transformation. The one's left standing will be the one's who embrace new ideas, test the limits of conventional wisdom, and figure out the new formula to monetize quality content. The real question is, will this be Ms. Weymouth's "let them eat cake" moment, will she quit, or will she continue to demonstrate the willingness to take risks, make mistakes, learn, and move on to ultimately succeed? My guess (hope) is the latter. And I would think most would be inclined to feel the same way.

Posted by: mattjack | July 4, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

"From the outset, we laid down firm parameters to ensure that these events would be consistent with The Post's values." - Katharine Weymouth Sunday, July 5, 2009.

Yes, the values are the problem.

Posted by: AlanDownunder | July 5, 2009 2:25 AM | Report abuse

Imho Weymouth's apology falls short of what readers' expect. She obviously doesn't understand that a non-public event at her home, consisting of WaPo management, newsroom staff, administration officials, lawmakers and sponsors will always look conspirative, no matter what rules and guidelines are applied to it. Without independent observers and/or reporters from other media present, there will always be suspicion that such a meeting turns out to be exactly what the flier advertised. Just look at the distrust and suspicion that is directed at other closed meetings, like the Bilderberg conferences, for instance!

Such insider events that exclude the public go much further than the Post hosting a sponsored convention or discussion that include an audience. It's simply a bridge too far. That Weymouth fails to acknoledge that not only the failed advertisement, but the whole idea is totally incompatible with the Washington Post role as a company serving a broad readership is disturbing. And by not being honest about the level of her own involvement, despite reports about her won bureau handling invitations of administration officials, adds insult to injury.

Instead of making so many words to excuse this as a simple marketing failure, she should have been forthcoming and explained to the readers what exactly she, and her staffers, promised the possible guests, like Kathleen Sebelius and the targetted sponsor, Kaiser permanente. Especially what the sponsor as told! After all, why should Kaiser pay $25000 for a nice dinner, if they would be held "at arm's length" and "would have no control over the content of the discussions, and no special access to our journalists"? This doesn't make much sense, and Weymouth's apology fails to provide any answers to this. Her letter may be barely good enough for a CEO of a small company, but it falls short of what the readers expect from the publisher of one of the most prominent national newspapers. Weymouth simply doesn't seem to be of the right stuff.

Posted by: Gray62 | July 5, 2009 6:02 AM | Report abuse

Somewhat OT, but a constant nuissance for me:
On sundays, whenever the reader clicks on "opinions", he/she is automagically redirected to "Outlook". Afaics the only way to get to "Opinions home" is to click on it and then on click on the "stop loading" button of the browser very fast, in order to stay on that page. Mr. Alexander, could you pls tell the website designers that readers want to be able to access all pages, regardless of the day of the week? Thx.

And another problem: Afaik the only way to get to the ombudsman's blog is to click on the link on the "opinion home" page (or to search for it). The blog isn't linked anywhere else, not even under Andrew Alexanders "archive & bio"! This is very inconveninet, and it would be nice if the Web Editors would change that, too.

And now back to the regular program...

Posted by: Gray62 | July 5, 2009 6:29 AM | Report abuse

> The real question -- and the one that
> neither Weymouth nor Brauchli will
> address, is whether they knew that
> "sponsorships" would be sold.

Respectfully, I think that is deeply incorrect. The real question is why these message parlors were (and presumably still are) happening **at all**, not whether or not explicit play-to-pay was involved. The Washington Post has incredible capability to execute boundary maintenance and shape what is "acceptable" (vs what is "extreme" or "unhinged" - see 2002/2003) in public/policy debate in the United States. If the boundaries of what is acceptable are being shaped in secret meetings hosted by the WaPo - whether pay-to-play or not - then we no longer have a democratic form of government.


Posted by: sphealey | July 5, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Don't insult my intelligence. I've known that Wapo is a wh@re for quite some time.

Posted by: kurthunt | July 6, 2009 1:12 AM | Report abuse

I agree with all of those who note that this is not a public relations disaster. It is an ethics disaster, and I doubt the Post will ever recover from it.

Posted by: vklip | July 6, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

I don't often quote the Bible, but this seems particularly apt:

"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

The Washington Post can be in the news business. Or it can be in the "shaping the national conversation" business. It can't be in both.

That said, we as a society need to figure out who is going to pay for reporting. It can't be done this way. It has to be done by figuring out how to charge something for on-line reading. And everyone reading on line has to understand that we need to pony up. Doesn't have to be much--a dime a day, or maybe even a quarter. That would go a long way to paying for the reporting that we need.

Posted by: kchenoweth | July 6, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

K. Weymouth and M Brauchli--
Shame on both of you!!!
I used to be an avid reader online- now I will read your newspapers' content with a jaundiced eye.

Posted by: jpaul60768 | July 6, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

A new offer. Post Saloon. It will cost you. $50K, give you time to think. Add an 0 for sponsorships. Gibbs can't afford it and there will be no papers delivered and you'll be out of cellphone range. A good thing! You always catch hell for doing really worthwhile things. It takes talent to catch hell for doing things that are not worthwhile. What can you do?

“Out on the wide sea, surrounded by voracious waters, at the mercy of spiteful winds, far from home, family and companions, we think more seriously than we are apt to do amid the distracting pleasures and turmoil of shore occupations.”

Posted by: Dermitt | July 6, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

So if this was only a marketing mistake, what exactly does the $250,000 entrance fee buy?

Katharine Weymouth must resign before I'll ever buy the Post again.

Posted by: Fubar4 | July 6, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

What part of the "Seven Principles by Which to Run a Newspaper" does offering yourself up to the highest bidder fall under? If there were a buyer for the Post newspaper, the company would shed the name tight now and rebrand itself as Kaplan, Inc.

It's stupid ideas like this one that gain traction when you fail to adjust your business plan in the face of a declining business product.

Posted by: thensell | July 6, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

What a joke.

1. A non-denial denial that no Post reported would accept from any targets.

2. No one takes a hit for this. Sorry, but declaring "I take responsibility" without consequences is just another white wash. Meaningless.

3. Followed by dead silence and no follow up by anyone. Sorry, but you don't just get to say "case closed" and walk away.

Posted by: janowicki | July 6, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

First the Froomkin fiasco, and now this.

You are no longer running a newspaper, you are running a full fledged, non stop horror show.

Posted by: STTPinOhio | July 6, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Status report -

Froomkin still canned.
Everyone involved in selling access still gainfully employed.

New Update!

"Apology" letter, inadequate as it is? Gone from the links.

Kinley's inane, dismissive snark comparing this falsely to ads? Link still prominently placed!

Again, do we need to know anything else?

Posted by: janowicki | July 6, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness for Politico:

July 06, 2009
Categories: Washington Post

Weymouth: WaPo launches internal review

Following her letter to reader's yesterday, Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth informed staff this afternoon, in a memo obtained by POLITICO, that general counsel Eric Lieberman will "review recent events to make sure that our business processes are consistent with, and will not in any way compromise, our journalism."

Posted by: tresangelas | July 6, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Yep, at least the Politico is providing the actual information the Post should be providing _their own readers_ in a good faith manner.

It is funny that all of the docs on this demonstrate that the Post knows exactly what is so ethically sickening about this...and Weymouth and gang are making a buck on just that. "Getting a seat at the table..." etc...

Riddle me think Weymouth and the Keystone Cops on her business staff will invite advocates of single payer to attend an event funded by Kaiser? Will they invite strong advocates of a public option? Kind of defeats the marketing, don't it? You think Kaiser would be too happy paying for "influencers" to be at the same table as such folks? To pay for them to "inform journalistic opinion"?

Just look at the legislators they did try and get for Kaiser. A right wing Dem opposed to the public options and Olympia Snowe, a moderate Rep who isn't a fan either.

You can insert similar groups to any issue. The deep pockets are on one side, and they ain't paying to allow their opponents to get a seat at the same table.

Posted by: janowicki | July 6, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the WaPo offices should be like Technical Support? You know, for general help press 1, for premium help press 2 and provide a credit card #.

Of course, the offices would be in India...

Posted by: joecct77 | July 6, 2009 11:40 PM | Report abuse

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