Six months after a scandal that tarnished The Washington Post's reputation, the newspaper said Thursday that its journalists will not participate in company-sponsored events with newsmakers unless the proceedings are on the record.
"It's important because we don't want to be perceived as doing things in secret for money," said Senior Editor Milton Coleman, who headed the review of the paper's practices with company attorney Eric Lieberman.
Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth apologized in July for an aborted plan to stage a series of off-the-record policy dinners at her home, with sponsors paying up to $25,000 to break bread with administration officials, lawmakers, business leaders and Post journalists. Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli also took responsibility for not blocking the plan, which the paper's ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, described as "an ethical lapse of monumental proportions."
As a "general rule," the guidelines say, newsroom staffers will participate in Post conferences or events only when there are "multiple sponsors." Participation in single-sponsor events "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." The executive editor, however, can grant exemptions -- if, for example, a company were to underwrite a conference on a topic far removed from its business.