Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Washington Post Can be Bought;

They just got into trouble because the marketing pitch was a little too truthful, offering “access to reporters, Obama Administration officials, etc. for cash, preferably in small, unmarked bills:

Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth said today she was canceling plans for an exclusive 'salon' at her home where for as much as $250,000, the Post offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record access to "those powerful few" — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and even the paper’s own reporters and editors.

The astonishing offer was detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he felt it was a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff."

But now that the news is out, the “salon” has been canceled. Weymouth, however, makes it clear that selling access will continue as part of the Post's attempt to build a revenue stream, though with a bit more discreet marketing strategy:

She made it clear however, that The Post, which lost $19.5 million in the first quarter, sees bringing together Washington figures as a future revenue source. '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,' she said. ' And we will begin to do live events in ways that enhance our reputation and in no way call into question our integrity.'”

The translates as nothing is really going to change, we just hope that we don't get caught again.

For this scheme to work, the Obama Administration officials have to “know” that they are going to get good coverage. If they get burnt at one of these sessions, they no longer show up, and the Post's revenue stream dries up. This is a built in incentive for the Post to skew coverage the Administration's way. Not that they really needed much encouragement.

Since the Post seems bent on demonstrating that they have no integrity, there's no real need to question it is there?

Update (03 July09): Perhaps published a bit too soon, since the Post is reporting that, unsurprisingly, the audience at Obama's healthcare town hall meeting were mostly plants:

In the stage-managed event, questions for Obama came from a live audience selected by the White House and the college, and from Internet questions chosen by the administration's new-media team. Of the seven questions the president answered, four were selected by his staff from videos submitted to the White House Web site or from those responding to a request for "tweets."

The president called randomly on three audience members. All turned out to be members of groups with close ties to his administration: the Service Employees International Union, Health Care for America Now, and Organizing for America, which is a part of the Democratic National Committee. White House officials said that was a coincidence.”

On the other hand, maybe Shear and Vargas just didn't get the memo in time.