Last summer, the Washington Post was set on staging a series of "salons" that would put Beltway power brokers, Post editors, and lobbyists all in the same room together, at Katherine Weymouth's, for a little light slap-and-tickle over crudites. Then the whole world found out about it, the paper was scandalized, executive editor Marcus Brauchli said that he was always under the impression that the soirees would be "on the record," and some poor schlub in the events department of the Post named Charles Pelton ended up getting blamed for the whole thing, and was subsequently made the fall guy. Well, guess what?
Apparently, Marcus Brauchli was lying "when he told the NYT that he didn't know the paper's controversial corporate-sponsored dinner parties would be off-the-record." And guess what else? A critical document in the timeline -- an internal newsletter in which Pelton was interviewed, and discussed the salons -- has been disappeared!
Over the weekend, the New York Times published a "Postscript" in their Saturday edition that advanced this past summer's Washington Post lobbyist salons story in a significant way. It read:
"An article on July 3 reported on aborted plans for the publisher of The Washington Post to hold corporate-sponsored dinner parties including Post journalists. One issue in the controversy was that the dinners were being promoted as 'off the record.' The article quoted The Post's executive editor, Marcus W. Brauchli, as saying that the newsroom would 'reserve the right to allow any ideas that emerge in an event to shape or inform our coverage.' By The Post's definition of the term, that means the events would not be 'off the record.'
"On Sept. 12, an article in The Times reported that Charles Pelton, the marketing executive at the center of the plans, had resigned from The Post. That article, referring again to Mr. Brauchli's comments at the time, reported that he said he had not understood that the dinners would be off the record. However, in a subsequent letter to Mr. Pelton -- which was sent to The Times by Mr. Pelton's lawyer -- Mr. Brauchli now says that he did indeed know that the dinners were being promoted as 'off the record,' and that he and Mr. Pelton had discussed that issue."
Editor and Publisher's Greg Mitchell responded by asking "What Did Washington Post Editor Know About Salons -- and When Did He Know It?" and carefully tracing back Brauchli's statements. And that got me thinking about the timeline of the who-knew-what-when regarding these salons. Long before The Politico broke the story on the salons, an internal Washington Post newsletter, called "ShopTalk," featured an interview with Charles Pelton, who had joined the Post in May as the "general manager of a new Washington Post Conferences & Events business." Here's what Pelton told Washington Post employees in their official employee newsletter on June 16, 2009:
Q: What goals have you set?
PELTON: We're thinking of doing eight to eleven salons, five to six day-long briefings and one major leadership summit per year. The salons are two-hour dinners with reporters, editors, policy makers, politicians, advocacy groups and other people who have a stake in a particular topic.
Q: How will you measure success?
PELTON: Profits. We want to drop some money to the bottom line. We want to be one of the engines of growth.
That interview occupies a significant moment on the who-knew-what-when timeline. And now, that entire issue of "ShopTalk" has somehow gone missing from its website! I wonder why!
PREVIOUSLY, on the HUFFINGTON POST:
Greg Mitchell: What Did Washington Post Editor Know About Salons -- and When Did He Know It?
Washington Post Plans Salons With Lobbyists: Anyone Shocked?
WaPo Ombudsman Responds To Lobbyist Salons