WaPo scraps salon scheme

WAPO SCRAPS SALON SCHEME…. When a major national newspaper schedules an event connecting lobbyists and policymakers in exchange for lots of money, there’s only so much damage control the outlet can do.

In light of this morning’s revelations, the Washington Post‘s executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, said he is “appalled” by the proposed “salon,” and said the newsroom will not participate in the event. “We do not offer access to the newsroom for money,” Brauchli said. “We just are not in that business.”

The Post went on to tell staffers that the scheduled event was put together by the corporate office’s business operation, without the knowledge of the editors. But just to remove any questions of impropriety, the scheduled “salon” was cancelled altogether this afternoon.

Washington Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth today canceled plans for a series of policy dinners at her home after learning that marketing fliers offered lobbyists access to Obama administration officials, members of Congress and Post journalists in exchange for payments as high as $250,000.

“Absolutely, I’m disappointed,” Weymouth, the chief executive of Washington Post Media, said in an interview. “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.”

Howard Kurtz added, presumably for context, “The Post Co. lost $19.5 million in the first quarter and just completed its fourth round of early-retirement buyouts in several years, prompting Weymouth to look for new sources of revenue.”

Andy Alexander, the paper’s ombudsman, wrote up a piece of his own, noting, “For a storied newspaper that cherishes its reputation for ethical purity, this comes pretty close to a public relations disaster.”

Alexander added, “The problem: The Post often decries those who charge for access to public officials. This raised the specter of a money-losing newspaper doing the same thing — and charging for access to its own reporters and editors as well.”