In the wake of Mike Allen’s story in Politico this morning about The Washington Post advertising “salons” at which deep-pocketed sponsors could obtain access to administration officials, members of Congress, and the paper’s own editorial staff–-and WaPo Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli’s quick repudiation of the events–-CJR spoke to a clearly exasperated Brauchli. Here’s what he had to say:
The Post hired an employee to plan events and conferences earlier this year, a step Brauchli called “sensible.” (In fact, other media organizations do the same thing.) And “under certain circumstances,” he said, newsroom staff might participate. But not these circumstances. “We will not participate in this salon dinner or any other event structured like this, nor would we have considered it,” Brauchli said. “We do not produce what is in effect advertorial content.”
What are the conditions under which editorial staff might take part in an event? Brauchli listed a few: No limitation in advance on questions; the ability to use information gleaned from an event to shape coverage; and the right to determine or agree upon topics of discussion. Further, he said, the Post would not use its name or its journalists to gain access to government officials for “non-news purposes.”
Brauchli said he had no knowledge of the flyer advertising the event until he received a call from Allen about it last night. “It would never have gone out with my knowledge,” he said. He also said he did not know if the Post had ever held sponsored events, of any type, that featured the presence of editorial employees. (A former Post reporter said he was “fairly sure” the paper had never previously engaged in this sort of activity.)
So how did the flyer go out without being cleared with the newsroom? We’ve put that question to a Post spokesperson and will update if we hear more.
Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.