WaPo Ombudsman Calls His Newspaper a Dirty Whore, BasicallyS

Recently the Washington Post has taken a beating for attempting to sell access to its newsroom via fancy, elistist "salons." The New York Times has been positively giddy over it. Now the Post's ombudsman has spoken.

In a piece that ran in Sunday's edition of the Post, Andrew Alexander essentially took the paper to the woodshed in that oh so politely stern ombudsman way.

Historically at quality newspapers such as The Post, a firewall exists between the business and news departments to ensure editorial integrity and independence. The Post has internal "Standards and Ethics" guidelines that stress the importance of newsroom neutrality.

The first line says: "This newspaper is pledged to avoid conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest, wherever and whenever possible." Later, it states the newspaper "is committed to disclosing to its readers the sources of the information in its stories to the maximum possible extent."

But the salon dinners ran counter to the spirit of both. By having outside underwriters, The Post was effectively charging for access to its newsroom personnel. Reporters or editors could easily be perceived as being in the debt of the sponsors. And by promising participants that their conversations would be private, those attending would be assured a measure of confidentiality that the news department typically opposes.

Like many newspapers, The Post is losing money and seeking new streams of revenue. The idea of sponsored events seemed attractive because other news organizations have convened them. Big events, like seminars or conferences, can be lucrative, although the potential to be realized from 11 dinners would be comparatively small.

The "salon dinner" concept was a throwback to when Katharine Graham, as publisher, hosted private dinner parties for power brokers — but on her own dime.

Oh snap! Right as we started reading his piece we wondered if Alexander would get in a "this would've never happened on Katherine Graham's watch" dig at the paper's current leadership, and he so did.

Now, we fully expect there to be at a half-dozen more "the Washington Post is evil" articles from the New York Times in the next week. Don't disappoint us Pinch!

A Sponsorship Scandal At The Post [Washington Post]
Pic via