‘Washington Post’ Sets Guidelines for Newsroom’s Role in Sponsored Events

By: E&P Staff

The Washington Post has instituted a new policy for newsroom participation in sponsored events that going forward will enable it to avoid the controversy it weathered six months ago.

The Post said Thursday that its writers and editors will not take part in company-sponsored events with newsmakers unless the proceedings are on the record.

The guidelines, according to a report by Howard Kurtz, state that newsroom staffers will participate in Post events or conferences only when there are “multiple sponsors.” Participation in single-sponsor events, the guidelines state, “can create the appearance that we are trying to further that sponsor’s individual interest, especially if that sponsor has a direct financial or political interest in the topic.”

However, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli has the power to grant exemptions — ?if, for example, a company were to underwrite a conference on a topic far removed from its business,? Kurtz wrote.

Sponsors will not determine the content or structure of any event, according to the guidelines, and the Post will determine the proceedings? news value. Post reporters can be consulted on potential guests, but they will not be tasked to extend invitations.

“These guidelines will help us ensure the integrity of our journalism, keeping it separate from any interference, real or perceived, from sponsors of events,” Senior Editor Milton Coleman, who headed the review of the paper’s practices with company attorney Eric Lieberman, said in Kurtz?s report.

The new guidelines, Brauchli said in a staff note, ?are important to upholding our journalistic independence and credibility.”

Last July, Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth apologized for endorsing plan to stage a series of off-the-record policy dinners at her home.

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