Thursday, July 2, 2009

pay to play

Words fail.

Politico reports that the Washington Post has circulated a flier that offers health care lobbyists and the other usual suspects "access" to the power players -- administration officials, top health care reporters, etc. -- in the health care debate.

Access is defined thusly: you pay us anywhere from $25,000 to $250,000 and your place at the table is reserved. Price includes dinner and cocktails.

The shenanigan came to light when an outraged lobbyist leaked the flier.

From Politico's story:

The offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator for private lobbyist-official encounters — was 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.

And it's a turn of the times that a lobbyist is scolding The Washington Post for its ethical practices.

"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."

From the flier itself:
“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. ...

Embarassed by the Politico story, the Post has issued a statement that disavows the participation of the newsroom in any access-for-money event, but stopped short of cancelling the event. And, oh yes. Shouldn't it be "... the guest list of 20 or fewer"?

Thanks, D. Fact. bk


tk said...

And we wonder why poeple are losing faith in the print medium

Jack said...

I don't think it's fair to say this is why people are losing faith in the print medium. I almost feel bad for the Post. Maybe if the public didn't keep expecting that great news content is gratis, newspapers would have more money -- and wouldn't have to resort to boneheaded moves like these.

tk said...

I am truly afraid that only ONE bone head move like this one will undo years of great newspapering. I agree with the rest of Jack's comment.