The ‘Endemic Practices’ of ‘Revenue-Hungry News Orgs’

Furthering the story of “Washington Post executives–reeling…over a flier promoting a ‘salon’ for lobbyists to mingle with prominent newsmakers,” Politico reporters Michael Calderone and Andy Barr (7/4/09) think the suits at the Post might reasonably ask “Why us?”:

The fact is the Post‘s clumsy effort to make money on its brand name and market its access to the powerful was a belated effort to follow in the steps of at least two other prominent news organizations: The Wall Street Journal and the Economist magazine.

The Journal, for instance, is charging a $7,500 for its two-day CEO Council in November, an elite gathering that will include the paper’s top editors and high-profile speakers like Tony Blair, Rupert Murdoch, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. And for a few thousand dollars, the Economist can open the door to intimate off-the-record meet-and-greets with world leaders.

These events illustrate how the basic transaction–charging big fees to special interests to arrange private, special-access encounters with powerful people–that caused the Post this week to be excoriated is a more endemic practice than many people in political and media circles realize. Some watchdogs hope this week’s Post scandal will help put an end to a hard-to-defend practice by revenue-hungry news organizations.

The quote from one such watchdog, Pew Project director Tom Rosenstiel, makes it totally clear: “He said, news organizations are ‘encouraging the notion in the reader’s mind that [they’re] part of some insider establishment that it considers more important than public knowledge'”–now where would we ever get that idea?