Monday, July 06, 2009

Washington Post Readers Erupt Over Dinnergate

The Washington Post’s readers are roaring with fury at the newspaper’s Dinnergate scandal. As of this writing, nearly 700 comments have poured into Howard Kurtz’s article on the debacle, more than 200 have been posted to the Ombudsman’s story and almost 600 have descended on the publisher’s apology. Here’s a sample of what the readers are saying. Mark our words: after this, the Post’s endorsement is going to matter a whole lot less next year than it did in 2002 and 2006.

Post reader comments:

I have never seen a news organization self-destruct more quickly than I have the Washington Post today. You just flat-out offered flattering stories in exchange for $250,000 bribes. Unbelievable.

This is shameful, just shameful. The Washington Post has lost whatever journalistic integrity it had left. No wonder newspapers are dying.

This hurts. Up until now, I considered the Washington Post to be one of the few outstanding news sources in the world. Now, I will have much less trust in its reporting. This is not the fault of marketing. This is the fault of the publisher, who obviously knew all about this money grab. I can’t help but believe those in charge of the newsroom knew about it, too. Remember, credibility is very fragile. This episode put a huge crack in the credibility of the Washington Post. What a shame.

Would someone please explain to someone far outside the Beltway why a newspaper thinks it should broker interactions between government officials and those seeking favorable treatment from the government?

What’s black and white and red all over? Answer: a blushing Washington Post. And well you should be embarrassed with the disclosure of a newspaper running a salon for-profit special interest escort service. Your bankrupt journalistic ethics are now exposed for all to see.

The Washington Post only found this story fit to run in the Style section today. I'll bet if it happened at the Washington Times during the Bush years they would have run it on the top of the front page.

The Post does a lot of excellent reporting of difficult and complex issues. There’s a lot of great journalism there, and a lot of honest people. But this! This is shameful! It calls into question everything the Post reports. Now every time I read a Post article (if I continue to read the Post at all...), I'll have to wonder, “Did any special interest groups pay tens of thousands of dollars for off-the-record access to the article's author or to its editor, and if so, did it influence what I'm reading?” The answer to both questions may very well be, “No.” But once I have to ask those questions, the answers doesn't really matter; the damage is done by the need to ask. If decision makers at the Post can't understand how completely wrong this was, they have no business running such an important newspaper.

Obviously, Pelton is taking the fall for what is an - appalling - idea of Weymouth’s. These “salons” are a disgraceful idea, and they are a symptom of how the Post is a) desperate for revenue, and b) no longer the swashbuckling institution that it was in the Watergate era. The Washington Post was a national treasure back in those days. In the past 20 years, however, it has become everything bad about everything bad.

Ridiculous? Last week I would have said so, but after today... ehhhh, not so much. After all, if the Post would sell space in its publisher’s own living room to raise money, then it’s certainly capable of selling space on its Op-Ed page, isn’t it?

Now we know why WaPo editorial board member Ruth Marcus just came out opposing a health plan which would allow a government entity to compete with insurance companies. Clearly you can’t sell tickets to big insurance companies if they think that you support a plan which would compete with them. It is incredible how sleazy the Post’s relationship with those in power has become.

Let me get this straight...the Washington Post charges special interests ten to twenty thousand dollars to attend “parties” with Post newsroom reporters. Do the special interests have to pay more to actually write the articles that appear in print? How much would it cost me to write a Krauthammer editorial?

It seems to me that the Post’s staff’s objections amount to arguing about the pattern on the skirt worn by a sh***y pig. This tale suggests that privileged access (and its consequences) is endemic at the Post and in Washington’s political culture. We need to realize that the reporting on health care is probably no more honest than that of the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Would that we had half the courage of the Iranians.

So you’ll be taking big bucks from insurance industry executives and lobbyists so that they can dictate the talking points to your stenographers - I mean columnists - so that they can catapult the propaganda - I mean opine - on what a very bad, terrible, horrible, socialist, fascist and communist thing it would be for 47 million Americans citizens to have a public option for their healthcare. Got it.

REPORTERS COMPLAIN ABOUT STRESS OF JOURNALISTIC PROSTITUTION (WASHINGTON DC) Embittered Was Po reporters complained about the stress of Journalistic Prostitution. “You have to write 2 stories, say one praising Obama and one criticizing Obama.” “The articles have to be posted on a secure online website for bidders only before the NYSE opens at 9 eastern.” “Then if someone buys the Deletion rights or worse yet demands a fictitious source, you have to get the rewrites ready immediately or your future price as a reporter will track down,” complained a dispirited reporter. Reporters were pleased, however, with their pay under the new contingent fee arrangement for the revenue streams generated by Wash Po articles traded on the NYSE futures market. And since the scandal occurred before a holiday weekend, no one will remember by Monday.

I looked at the Politico story a second of the most striking portions is this: “She made it clear however, that The Post, which lost $19.5 million in the first quarter, sees bringing together Washington figures as a future revenue source.” In other words: the Washington Post is perfectly happy in being the pimp between lobbyists and the White House.

So, if the National Rifle Association would “sponsor,” say, $250,000 worth of these “salons,” could we buy some fair coverage? I would think so. Is there any other way to read it?

What’s the big deal? This was just an attempt to formalize WaPo’s role as pimp arranging trysts between wh*res (gov’t) and their johns (lobbyists).

They got caught, plain and simple. It was not a mistake. It was not an oversight. They got caught.


This boondoggle is not conspiracy, as some suggest. It’s gross incompetence. The Washington Post is just a public high school but with a little more money. There are a few highly-overpaid and idolized superstars around which all business turns. Aside from that are the masses of hard workers who somehow still have their jobs, but will never get any recognition, a raise or a “thank you.”

If pimping out the Post is done in such plain sight, one shudders to think what journalistic malpractices publisher Weymouth executes behind closed doors.

Newsboy yells out: “I got your Post for sale, right here! Post for sale.” Bystander: “Tell me boy, what’s the headline.” Newsboy: “Mister, that is the headline.”

So who’s getting fired for this? You’ll let go talented journalists for downsizing, but your idiotic marketing clowns get to come in to work on Monday? Everyone involved in this should get the ax. Maybe the Weekly World News is hiring.

How much to spin George Will’s bowtie?

I’m a former editor of a (very) small local weekly. There is NO WAY that Katherine Weymouth DID NOT know about this. I refuse to believe that her marketing team would EVER put such an idea onto paper without her knowledge and consent, even if it was just a “trial balloon.” So, there are only two possible conclusions to be drawn - 1) either Weymouth is totally clueless about how the newspaper business is supposed to work, or 2) she is absolutely desperate to increase revenues. I opt for the latter. But if that’s true, and she’s willing to even entertain the idea of compromising the Post's integrity for cash, things must be very, very bad indeed.

Good lord! This is nuts. Now, anyone attempting to contact a Post reporter will have to wonder whether their calls would be returned more quickly - or at all - if only they had paid to sponsor a salon.

The Post’s credibility on local news was destroyed long ago by sloppy, inaccurate reporting. The editorial page has been biased and excessively influenced by certain Montgomery County politicians like Councilmembers Andrews and Trachtenberg. The Post is so bad that I cannot rely upon it for accuracy in any matter. Therefore, this is no surprise, but interesting to see the Post brass try to spin and worm out to avoid full responsibility for what this is: disreputable, shameful, unethical conduct.

I do really like the part about $250K for “non-confrontational access.” The simple translation of that deliciously accurate phrase is “We’ll kiss your ass for $250K; you just tell us how hard.”

Gee, and here I thought all the grammatical and spelling errors this newspaper has been making lately were serious problems. Thanks for putting it in perspective, Washington Post.

If Katherine Weymouth had any integrity she would now resign as publisher of the Post. Of course, if she had any integrity, she would not have been pimping the Post in the first place.

Unbelievable. It doesn’t matter what you call it, this is prostitution. It would be nice if news organizations actually felt their loyalty was to the readers, but I guess those days are long gone.

The DC Madam lives!

Now that Ms Weymouth has had to cancel the Salons, what’s she going to do with the 10,000 cocktail weenies and the 500 pounds of imitation crabmeat that are in her freezer?

People are going to remember today as the day the Washington Post died.