What Were They Thinking?: Washington Post Offers Lobbyists Access to Health Reporters, Officials

Published on
July 2, 2009

The Washington Post's newsroom is in an uproar today after the political news website Politico.com broke a shocking story:

"For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post has offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to "those powerful few": Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and - at first - even the paper's own reporters and editors."

The offer, which came in a flyer distributed to lobbyists - one of whom promptly leaked it to Politico - described a salon called "Health-Care Reform: Better or Worse for Americans? The reform and funding debate." The flyer promised lobbyists "collegial" access to officials and the Post's own "health care reporting and editorial staff."

Washington Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli quickly quashed any participation by the newsroom staff, saying in a memo:

"We will not participate in events where promises are made that in exchangefor money The Post will offer access to newsroom personnel or will refrainfrom confrontational questioning. Our independence from advertisers or sponsors is inviolable."

After the Politico story broke, Post Publisher and CEO Katharine Weymouth cancelled the exclusive salon - but the damage has been done. Will the Post's reporting on health reform now seem suspect? Some of Politico's commenters think so. Share your thoughts in the comments below.