- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009

So much for The Washington Post’s plans to host a series of fancy “salons” for political insiders, business leaders, lawmakers and reporters.

The pricey encounters were called off only hours after a publicity memo advertising the events was made public by Politico.

Post publisher and chief executive officer Katharine Weymouth had originally been scheduled to host the salons in her home, complete with a price tag up to $250,000 for those seeking access and insight from inside-the-Beltway players.

“This should never have happened. The fliers got out and weren’t vetted. They didn’t represent at all what we were attempting to do. We’re not going to do any dinners that would impugn the integrity of the newsroom,” Ms. Weymouth said.

In an internal memo obtained by The Washington TImes, the Post’s executive editor Marcus Brauchli assured his editorial staff that the newsroom would not participate in the salons, and that “independence from advertisers and sponsors was inviolable.”

Commentary in the aftermath was intense. The damning publicity flier “essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator for private lobbyist-official encounters,” Politico noted.

But simple mismanagement of business affairs could be the real culprit.

“The flier circulated this morning came out of a business division for conferences and events, and the newsroom was unaware of such communication. It went out before it was properly vetted, and this draft does not represent what the company’s vision for these dinners are, which is meant to be an independent, policy-oriented event for newsmakers,” said Kris Coratti, communications director for the Post.

“As written, the newsroom could not participate in an event like this. We do believe there is an opportunity to have a conferences and events business, and that The Post should be leading these conversations in Washington, big or small, while maintaining journalistic integrity,” she said. “The newsroom will participate where appropriate.”

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