‘Wash Post’ Ombudsman Probes Broder and Woodward

By: E&P Staff

In her Sunday column this week, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell responds to charges of improper money-making from special-interest groups against two of the newspaper’s stars, David Broder and Bob Woodward. The allegations were carried in the current issue of Harper’s by Ken Silverstein, the magazine’s Washington editor.

Both Broder and Woodward recently took buyouts from the paper but remain as contract workers.

The Post Stylebook’s ethics and standards section says only: “We freelance for no one and accept no speaking engagements without permission from department heads.” Howell observes: “Broder and Woodward did not check with editors on the appearances Silverstein mentioned.”

Broder tells Howell, “I am embarrassed by these mistakes and the embarrassment it has caused the paper.”

The ins and out of all this are too complicated to summarize here — a link to the full article is below. But Howell concludes: “Broder should have followed his own and The Post’s rules. Woodward’s case is somewhat different, but Downie would like to know and should know what groups Woodward is speaking to in case he wants to object. Woodward’s name and The Post’s are synonymous, and whatever Woodward does is associated with the paper, even if he’s rarely there.

“Most of all, The Post needs an unambiguous, transparent well-known policy on speaking fees and expenses. It should deal with charities and those on contract. Approvals for speeches that involve fees should be sought and given in writing by a high-ranking editor. Fees should be accepted only from educational, professional or other nonprofit groups for which lobbying and politics are not a major focus — with no exceptions.”



Ken Silverstein of Harper’s has now responded:


One excerpt: “But Howell goes very easy on Broder?who has been flagrantly dishonest with his own employer and with Howell?and Woodward, who is allowed to glide away from some very embarrassing matters. Also, Howell deals with only a few speeches by Woodward and Broder, even though Woodward gave dozens and Broder gave roughly a score. I understand that she could not deal with each instance individually (nor did I), but she could have mentioned prominently the fact that the two men, and especially Woodward, are regulars on the talk circuit and that the problem is not restricted to the few speeches she discusses in her column.”

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