Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Speaking of harebrained schemes. . . .

You may or may not have heard of the guano storm surrounding The Washington Post's now-abandoned plan to -- for a price -- put together "informal salons" where lawmakers, bureaucrats and Post editors and reporters would discuss the issues of the day.

"Sponsors" of these informal salons -- according to a leaked "precursor" document to a Post flier that went out last week -- could find it advantageous to:
* Participate in an issues-based discussion as an equal at the table with key policy-makers

* Interact with core players in an off-the-record format

* Build key relationships in an informal setting

* Discuss critical topics of interest to you and your organization in a neutral environment with Washington Post news executives

[Have an] Acknowledgement in formal printed invitations and at the dinner of your underwriting role
WELL, I GUESS the bigwigs at The Washington Post at least should get credit for creativity in the quest for new "revenue streams." After all, influence peddling as a "revenue enhancer" is definitely thinking "outside the box."

From Michael Calderone's blog on the
Politico website:
But as far as materials go in preparing for the July 21 event, there was more than just a hastily-prepared,one-page flier. POLITICO has obtained a detailed, word document, sent out more than two weeks ago, which goes into greater specifics about what potential sponsors could have received.

And now that the Post is undergoing an internal review into what went wrong, it's worth looking at all the materials sent out by the business side, and how there could have been such mis-communication with the newsroom over the parameters of this an event.

The Washington Post salons, according to this solicitation to potential underwriters, would "provide an intimate and informal dinner and discussion setting where leading policy makers and business leaders discuss issues, options and solutions relating to major international, national, local and cultural affairs with top Washington Post editors, columnists and journalists."

In addition to Weymouth and Brauchli, the dinner on the week of July 20 would include "other Washington Post health care editorial and reporting staff." (As I reported Thursday, Brauchli said he was attending, but didnt know other guests invited. Reporter Ceci Connolly also told POLITICO she would be invited).

Other invited guests, according to this offer, would include the following: "Congressional leaders at the forefront of building health care legislative initiatives," "administration and agency officials involved in creating health care policy,"leading researchers from key think-tanks and academic institutions, "hospital and medical group trade association representatives (may be an underwriter), "health care insurance trade association representatives (may be an underwriter), "patient advocate group representatives," and "corporate leaders in health care delivery, health care IT, and / or insurance (may be an underwriter)."

The salons, to be held up to 11 times annually (except in August), were slated to be two-and-a-half hour. off-the-record dinner discussions with no more than 20 participants. As for editorial involvement, the offer mentions the "executive editor, key section editor, beat reporter (optional)."
REALLY, I DON'T KNOW how a reasonable person looks at this mad Post scheme as anything but influence peddling as part of the newspaper's business model. Put less charitably, the paper's management was perfectly willing to profit by pimping out its journalists and playing matchmaker for pols and those willing to "service" them (in a manner of speaking).

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the late "D.C. Madam," would be so amused.

For a century now, newspapers have been quick to dust off the old line about how they
"comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." The phrase's originator, Chicago journalist Finley Peter Dunne, didn't have public relations in mind when he coined it.

Instead, he was worried about the potential for newspapers to abuse their power, just as any ingrained institution might:
"Th newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th' ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward".
ANYMORE, the newspaper doesn't do so much for us. But, unfortunately, it seems papers like The Washington Post are determined to use what pull they still possess to comfort the comfortable. For whatever profit they can milk out of the deal.

And if that just happens to heap more affliction upon the afflicted . . . well, the afflicted aren't in newspapers' target demographic.

But then again, if
The Daily Blab is run by the same sort what runs The Washington Post, who'd want to be? Obviously, fewer every day.

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