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Newspapers Exposed: Publications to Sell Pieces of Themselves

It took about five minutes after the story got out for The Post to announce it was cancelling plans to charge corporations $25,000 for the privilege of sponsoring dinners at the publisher’s house, where their executives could mingle with Post reporters and honchos from the White House and Congress. This idea certainly gets the “What Were They Thinking?” Award for the week. But these dinners may be just the tip of the iceberg. I have it on good authority that the The Post Company actually will sell entire pages of its newspaper (or smaller acreages) to almost anyone who can foot the bill. Buyers -- often corporations -- can use this space almost any way they want, be it to express a view on health care reform, or to allege that all deli meats are on sale for this weekend only. Whatever the message, the corporation is allowed to express it without any interference from the writers and editors in The Post newsroom.

And The Post is not alone. Every other newspaper in the world, most magazines, and even web sites will sell you a piece of themselves, if you know who to ask. Tempted? Go to the publication’s Web site and look for someone with the title of “publisher,” or “advertising director,” or vice-president/marketing. He or she very likely will carry, and attempt to force on you, a document called a “rate card,” which brazenly lists the publication’s prices for pieces of various sizes.

Even if all this is perfectly innocent, it certainly creates an appearance of impropriety. And now that I have exposed it, I trust that it will stop.

By Michael Kinsley  | July 4, 2009; 8:07 AM ET
Categories:  Kinsley  | Tags:  Michael Kinsley  
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Comments

Michael, is there not a difference between advertising (done in the light of full public display) and back room schmoozing behind closed doors?

Posted by: reubenmoore | July 4, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Nothing says "courage" like sucking up to your bosses and defending their unethical conduct. If you keep this up, you will be qualified to be an ombudsman.

Posted by: WaHoWatch | July 4, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

You are the great observer of the twists and turns humans execute when they are confronted with the inconvenience of paying passing heed to consistency in the midst of their usual slavish devotion to the bandwagon, tradition, and brute desire. Or, for that matter, when they are not confronted with this inconvenience(just their slavish devotion). Coin some colorful phrases and claim the mantle of this century's Mencken.

Posted by: george22_1999 | July 6, 2009 1:35 AM | Report abuse

Kinsley's response reeks. In the first place, it's not true that "every other newspaper" is corrupt at this level. And even if they were, why in the world would that make it OK?

Kinsley apparently wants a better job, to the detriment of a free press and informed public. Just another example of our shameful journalism. I know it's been said before, but at least with Pravda the Russians knew their news was biased.

Posted by: dougd1 | July 6, 2009 2:24 AM | Report abuse

Isn't there a difference between selling access to a newspaper's pages and selling access to its journalists (not to mention their "sources"), or is the newsroom just as blank as the news paper?

Greg Bachelis, aka oldpoliticaljunkie

Posted by: gbachelis | July 6, 2009 7:03 AM | Report abuse

Michael Kinsley apparently writes for the famous blog Stupidass.com. Apparently the owners or publishers of the newspaper have trouble understanding the difference between advertising and articles. They tried to put out an apology that was apparently written by lawyers or PR people that some low level person was trying to sell influence to a party or dinner even though nobody in charge was aware of it. I think the readers understand the difference between the ads and the articles in your paper. The articles agree with everything that Obama says while the ads are possibly more objective.

Posted by: slackerforhire | July 6, 2009 7:46 AM | Report abuse

I would have no problem if someone paid $25,000 to $250,000 to paint a big advertising sign on Weymouth's house. It is all the back-room "off the record" grifting that is the problem.

Posted by: flounder2 | July 6, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

"The Post Company actually will sell entire pages of its newspaper"

Um, isn't this called "advertising"?

So what's the news here, Michael?

Posted by: seattle_wa | July 6, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Kinsley, I couldn't find your e-mail so I hope you read these comments. Your remark is a pathetic attempt to be disingenuous, equating selling advertising space to selling face time with the writers and editors of the paper. Ads, even the full-page variety, are distinguished pretty clearly from news stories, by visual separation. Any reader with any experience of print media at all can see where a story or a column ends, and where an ad begins.

The dinner-party concept basically made the news and editorial content--the reason people would even pay anything--a matter of lobbying and advertising. It would destroy the distinction between the two.

Do you honestly see none? Are you so thoroughly incompetent and witless? Are you seriously trying to claim that advertising is the same as writing news and opinion columns? Do you not understand that a reporter or a columnist can build up a public reputation--you might say, capital--of trust, based on the longtime, consistent content of columns? And further, that that trust could be violated by selling face time to lobbyists? Do you sincerely not understand this?

If so, you've been in the wrong trade for a long time, and people are fools for wasting any attention on you. If that's the case, then you, Michael, are a rank idiot.

Posted by: whizbang9a | July 6, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Michael,

I'm an old fan.

I know this was supposed to be humorous, but it came up lame.

Next time, show it to someone else first before submitting it. Your editor was either asleep at the wheel , too intimidated by your celebrity, or dumb enough to take this seriously.

Best -

Posted by: j2hess | July 6, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

What a doltish article.

"Nothing to see here, move along."
Only the publisher of the WaPo selling (at a $25,000 minimum) private, off-the-record access to WaPo "journalists", various Obama administration officials, Congressmen and others in her private home.

Kinsley's stupid comparison to buying ad space in the paper is beyond belief.

Kinsley gleefully crosses a dangerous line that Katharine Weymouth hastily stepped back from when this bit of incest was revealed.

If this had been some small-town paper it might have been sadly humorous but Kinsley seems to miss the point that this is influence peddling by one of the largest newspapers in the country.

Not funny dude, not funny at all.

Posted by: spamsux1 | July 6, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

No wonder he got fired by Salon. Pandering disguised as satire, how ingenious!

You people must really spend all day at the Post just blowing smoke up each other's arses.

Posted by: SoCali | July 6, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Katharine Weymouth graciously apologized to readers. Will Michael Kinsley do the same?

Posted by: shilohgun | July 6, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

How much does the New York Times and Maureen Dowd get paid for being Obama cheerleaders ? Every story is a sugary sweet fairytale on the Obamas and their clothes and their travels and their vacations etc etc...Everyone else gets trashed but Obama is above al lthat - they worship him. When they come back to reality in 2010 it will be too late, we have alredy started to abandon them due to their sickening love affair with someone who usurps our Constitution and plans to destroy our system of Government for his own means.

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | July 7, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

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