Jul 2, 2009

Politico: Washington Post selling access*

Politico's Mike Allen reports that the marketing department at the Washington Post has offered lobbyists access to its health care reporters and editorial staff, as well as members of Obama administration and Congress, at special salons for a price of $25,000 and up. Allen writes:
The offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator for private lobbyist-official encounters — is a new sign of the lengths to which news organizations will go to find revenue at a time when most newspapers are struggling for survival.
Allen found out about the conferences when a lobbyist, claiming they represented a conflict of interest for the paper, turned over an advertising flier. Allen also reports that marketing staff might be promising a lot more than the newsroom is willing to deliver. Here's some of the language from the flier:

"Underwriting Opportunity: An evening with the right people can alter the debate," says the one-page flier. "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. ... Bring your organization’s CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama administration and congressional leaders …

“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. …

“Offered at $25,000 per sponsor, per Salon. Maximum of two sponsors per Salon. Underwriters’ CEO or Executive Director participates in the discussion. Underwriters appreciatively acknowledged in printed invitations and at the dinner. Annual series sponsorship of 11 Salons offered at $250,000 … Hosts and Discussion Leaders ... Health-care reporting and editorial staff members of The Washington Post ... An exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will actually get it done. ... A Washington Post Salon ... July 21, 2009 6:30 p.m."

*Update: The Post responds to the story.

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