Washington Post “Salon” Scandal: The Memo Trail
Politico hit it hard with the story of how the Washington Post was hoping to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars by charging influence peddlers to attend exclusive meals with Post people and decision-makers.
Now come a flurry of memos in the wake of the crisis. Here are a couple of them:
From Publisher Katharine Weymouth:
You will have seen this morning a story in Politico and now widely picked up that we were planning a series of salon dinners. A flyer went out that was prepared by the Marketing Department and was never vetted by me or by the newsroom. Had it been, the flyer would have been immediately killed, because it completely misrepresented what we were trying to do.
I do not normally respond to stories but this one has created enough of a stir that I wanted to take the time 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 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. At this juncture, we will not be holding the planned July dinner and we will not hold salon dinners involving the newsroom.
We do believe that there is a viable way to expand our expertise into live conferences and events that simply enhances what we do – cover Washington for Washingtonians and those interested in Washington. And we will begin to do live events in ways that enhance our reputation and in no way call into question our integrity.
From Charles Pelton:
As many of you know, a flyer was distributed this week offering an “underwriting opportunity” for a salon dinner on health-care reform, in which the news department had been asked to participate.
The language in that flyer, which was not vetted with the newsroom, precludes the participation of the newsroom. We're canceling the Salon. The Washington Post newsroom will not participate in events where promises are made or implied that in exchange for money The Post will offer access to key sources, newsroom personnel or will refrain from confrontational questioning. Our newsroom's independence from advertisers and sponsors is inviolable.
There is a long tradition of news organizations hosting conferences and events, and we believe The Post, including the newsroom, can participate in conferences and events in ways that are consistent with our values.
Washington Post Conferences & Events