The recent story about the Washington Post “salon” where attendees could have an off-the-record meeting with Obama Administration officials and other assorted movers and shakers is pretty amazing. The reaction of the Post‘s publisher, as reported in this Politico entry, suggests that the publisher may not fully understand the issue that has attracted all of the comment. Whenever a newspaper begins to focus on “business practices” and “new and promising lines of business” that do not involve journalism, the journalism is going to be compromised in some sense. If the Post begins doing business with other entities, much less trading on its name to sell access to politicians, its journalistic ethics are going to be viewed by many in the public as compromised. If the Post gets into a for-profit business deal, what are the chances that it is going to publish a devastating expose of its business partner or new business venture?
The Post should follow my old journalism professor’s rule, and just not take what can’t be consumed in one sitting. Long-term business deals, and $25,000 admission “salons,” would not pass muster under that rule.