The Washington Post’s own pay-for-play scandal

In my latest for the Guardian, I examine why the pay-for-play scandal at the Washington Post — off-the-record access to Post editors and reporters at publisher Katharine Weymouth’s home for $25,000 a pop — defied early efforts to contain it.

On the one hand, it’s good to know that we’re still capable of being appalled. On the other hand, was this really all that different from what happens every day at the nexus of power, media and money?

12 thoughts on “The Washington Post’s own pay-for-play scandal

  1. O-FISH-L

    Instead of taking the obligatory swipe at Sarah Palin, in a column about a newspaper scandal no less, I would have liked to see you use that precious space to examine exactly how the WaPo was going to provide access to Obama administration officials in a private home. How was the WaPo going to induce the Obama officials to participate? Were they to be paid off in cash or were they going to prostitute themselves merely for a few glasses of wine and hors d' oeuvres? Whatever the arrangement, it must have been confirmed in place if the WaPo was advertising it. Has the AG been notified?

  2. bob gardner

    Kind of a bloodless rehash for something that's a week late. My question is this, if this happens all through the industry, did pay for play ever happen at the newspapers where you worked?

  3. Dan Kennedy

    It didn't happen at the Woburn Daily Times or the Boston Phoenix. Now, there's a representative sample!

  4. Leslie

    Just this past weekend I picked "All the President's Men" out of the $3.00 dvd bin at my local Big Lots store — and so I have been briefly suffused by the legendary glow of the Ben Bradlee-Katherine Graham-Woodward-Bernstein era when the Washington Post was perceived as a beacon of journalistic ethics. Now comes this story. Reality bites.

  5. Steve

    Fish – since when do you have to "induce" politicians to meet rich and influential people? My guess is they'd have to beat them away with sticks.Come to think of it… 🙂

  6. mike_b1

    When I worked as for a trade group lobbying in DC, all we had to do was spring for lunch.Of course, we represented over a trillion dollars worth of manufacturing revenue each year and at least 250,000 jobs, so …

  7. Michael Pahre

    If you wanna invite people over to your house for an orgy, then that's your business. But when you collect a fee at the door — and pay salaries to some of the people working inside — then people are gonna call you to account.It is entirely disingenuous for Zachary Hooper of The Atlantic, when defending that magazine's similar events, to defend the events as something that "gives [our journalists] more perspectives for their journalism." Baloney. The whole point was to charge money, not to educate their journalists. If The Atlantic held the identical event, without any corporate sponsorships or money flowing from companies into the magazine's coffers, the same lobbyists/journalists/elected officials would still show up. The Atlantic charged money because they wanted to turn a buck off of their position of influence.The questionable issue of these events hasn't yet been addressed: were any federal lobbying laws broken. My hunch is that at least some of the Atlantic events will qualify as lobbying, and that some of those will turn out not to have been fully reported as required by law.Further hunches: elected officials who participated in them (e.g., Senators Kerry, Coleman, and Dodd; then-Representative Emmanuel) will soon declare publicly that they didn't know that the money was changing hands, or that lobbying was going on. An investigation will be launched that will show that some of the corporate sponsors violated federal lobbying laws. No elected officials will be found violating the law, although a few might get slaps-on-the-wrist at worst.And these events will continue in the future — but underground, more quietly, where the money changing hands is passed under the table, not acknowledged on the flyer.

  8. meamoeba

    1) i doubt you'll ever see these words again under my id: i agree with o-fish in general and specifically that the shot at palin was gratuitous, and i don't even like her. dan, you already got your anti-sarah bona fides. no need to burnish them.2)the atlantic has influence? who knew?

  9. Dan Kennedy

    meamoeba: How is it gratuitous to point out that the WaPo scandal story had to break through a holiday weekend and two big stories, including Palin? And would the Palin story have been as big if she hadn't made a fool of herself at her news conference?

  10. meamoeba

    dan, there was the dictatorial suppression of opposition in iran and the increase of tensions and protests in china not to mention the remants of l'affaire sanford but those weren't mentioned. i'm on your side about palin's bizarre behavior but part ways on its necessity in relation to this story. palin happened the day after politico broke it. don't see the connection. ergo, gratuitous.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    meamoeba: No. It was the Palin story that dominated talk shows, not Iran or China. The media have pretty much dropped Iran at this point, to their shame. My point in his case was absolutely correct: the WaPo scandal story refused to fade despite having to compete with Michael Jackson, Sarah Palin and the holiday.

  12. meamoeba

    well, we part ways on that one, dan, as painful as it is to side with o-fish. i continue to see it as an unnecessary shot and you continue to see it as a relevant piece. we disagree.

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