At the Washington Post annual meeting on May 13, AIM editor Cliff Kincaid intends to question company brass about a new $175 a seat scheme to sell access to federal and state policy makers and Post journalists. The paper previously came under fire for considering the sale of seats to an exclusive off-the-record dinner at the home of Post publisher Katharine Weymouth that would have gone for as much as $250,000 each. “The price has changed, the principle has not,” said Kincaid. “The Post is still selling access.”
Kincaid said that tickets to a Washington Post Live discussion, “The Business of the Beltway,” being held on May 18 at Tysons Corner, Virginia, are $175 each. The fee gets you access to an event featuring White House economist Austan Goolsbee, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, and Pulitzer-prize winning Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein. The event, also advertised as being “attended by Publisher Katharine Weymouth and Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli,” is sponsored by Bank of America, Verizon Wireless, and other companies.
It is not clear how much money these companies are paying to sponsor this official Washington Post event.
The Post says that the audience will consist of “the region’s most influential business leaders and CEOs” and acknowledges on a company web site that the events “are intended to generate revenue as well.” This is a “worthwhile extension of our journalism,” the paper insists.
An advertisement for the event that appears on page A15 of the Wednesday, May 12, print edition of the Post, invites people to watch and listen online but says nothing about the price of $175 that is required to attend in person (if you are important enough to be invited). The logos of the company sponsors are at the bottom of the ad.
The $175 includes a subscription to a new Post publication called Capital Business, described as the “insiders’ guide” to the Washington business community.
“It looks like you have to be an insider to attend,” noted Kincaid, “and that category most likely includes lobbyists, association executives and other high rollers. This event is not journalism in any way. It is selling access to the Post and politicians for a profit.”
“I understand that the Post is facing financial problems,” Kincaid added, “but isn’t this a questionable way to make money – by using Post personnel as bait to lure in the big names and the big money?”
Kincaid is urging regular Post subscribers to show up at the Tysons Corner event and try to get in for free. “That is,” said Kincaid, “if we can find out where the ‘high-profile’ event will actually be. The precise location has not been disclosed in any official announcements of the event. It is apparently known only to the insiders.”
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