No blood in Washington Post

I saw this late last night and was debating whether to post it as part of my ongoing "No blood in ants" series -- a brutally honest account of one of the recent flurry of journalism summits where the sound and fury signifies nothing. The headline was "Save journalism: Beats us, panel says."

The cosmic quote was from the publisher of the Washington Post, Katharine Weymouth:

“We will look at anything and are taking a wait-and-see approach,” said Weymouth. “We think about a ton of things. Everything is open.” When asked whether print papers will always be around, Weymouth said, “I don’t know. I don’t predict. Nobody knows.”

Anyone detect a whiff of desperation there? Today, we learned that one of her "ton of things" in the works was this:

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 astonishing offer was detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he felt it was a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff."  

With the newsroom in an uproar after POLITICO reported the solicitation, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said this morning that he was "appalled" by the plan and said the newsroom will not participate.  

It takes a lot to shock people in the journalism world in 2009, but people are taken quite aback by this. It shouldn't be that much of a surprise, though. For months, deep thinkers have been telling newsroom leaders they can't survive without "non-traditional revenue sources," since no one is actually buying ads or purchasing the print edition.

But in regular business, a lot of revenue comes from cashing in on your brand name. But a newspaper's good name is supposed (I know, I know, supposed) to be all about an added layer of integrity, which means you can't cash in on your brand, not in a cheesy way like this. As bad as this looks for the Washington Post, the bigger picture is that the noose around American newspapers' necks suddenly feels a little tighter.

(Associated Press photo)

Continue Reading