The uproar over the Washington Post’s attempt to act as pimp and madam between lobbyists, reporters, and high-ranking government officials has exposed more than just one hypocrisy. An astute reader points out that besides the damage done to the Post’s political integrity by Katherine Weymouth’s access sale, their response points out a massive journalistic hypocrisy, too. The LA Times’ Peter Nicholas wanted to get a list of government officials invited by Weymouth to be bait for the lobbyist money guests to her “salon,” but got the stonewall treatment when asked:
The Post said it would not release a list of public officials who’d been invited to the dinners.
I guess the Post doesn’t kiss and tell, huh? They didn’t always take that position, though. When Dick Cheney met with energy-industry leaders in 2001 (before he could take advantage of the Post’s Mack Daddy program), the Post demanded transparency in government officials meeting with lobbyists. In fact, the Post got inside sources to divulge the list of participants in the meetings of the Energy Task Force. The Post was so impressed with itself that it created the handy table in order to make the information as easy to read as possible, when it published the names of all the participants in 2006.
Now, how does that situation differ from the Post’s own “salons” intended to create tete-a-tetes in private with high-ranking government officials? Shouldn’t the Post, as a journalistic organization, inform the public about the actions of public officials who want to secretly meet with lobbyists? After all, that was the reasoning behind the demand that Cheney release the participants in the ETF — that secrecy would negatively impact public policy. If these public officials declined the invitations, we’d like to see that kind of integrity honored. If they didn’t decline the invitations, then we should know about that, too.
This is what happens when a journalistic organization decides to moonlight as a power pimp for profit. The moonlight identity becomes the sole identity.