Revelations surfaced in July that pricey, shady, plainly unethical off-the-record dinners between Washington Post reporters and DC lobbyists were planned. It resulted in the firing of the WaPo's marketing director. Now, the NYT calls out their executive editor. SHOTS FIRED!
The short version of the story: the Washington Post planned to have dinners between reporters and lobbyists that the lobbyists would pay to attend, so they could talk to reporters. That's a little shady, but still more or less allowed. What's not cool is if those dinners were off-the-record, meaning that the public couldn't have knowledge of what lobbyists did or did not say to reporters who wrote about their jobs. The idea of the press and the people who push money around Washington to promote legislative causes getting together for expensive, secret pow-wows that would line the pocket of the Post is such a massive conflict-of-interest and ethics violation, it makes Fox News' "Fair and Balanced" tagline seem completely legit in comparison. The Post eventually woke up and canned the idea.
In July, Politico broke the story, and it resulted in the resignation of the Washington Post's marketing director, Charles Pelton, in September. What's great about being a sales and marketing exec at a newspaper is that they don't give a shit about ethics until somebody tells them "stop." In this case, that person should've been Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli, whose reporters would be at these dinners. But Brauchli was cool with it. When the Times talked to Brauchli about the story in July, he claimed he thought the dinners would be on the record. When Pelton The Shady Marketing Director resigned over this in September, a bunch of lobbyists were like THAT SUCKS and Marcus Brauchli was like, I HAD NO IDEA HE WAS SHADY and issued a flat-out denial to the Times of any knowledge that the dinners were planned to be off the record.
...In a subsequent letter to (Charles) 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.
Politico got the full letter between Pelton and Brauchli in which Brauchli claimed that he knew the records would be off the record, but not that kind of off the record. You know, the kind where we don't know who said what but we can still know who said it, which is a very specific kind of off the record called the "Chatham House Rule," which you've never heard of because you don't know bullshit journalism technicality lingo. You just know that "off the record" sure as shit sounds like "off the record," and that Brauchli claimed not to know the dinners were any kind of "off the record." Even Politico's Michael Caldrone, when he talked to Brauchli about it, got the same impression.
So, that happened. Brauchli-the executive editor of one of the largest newspapers in America-lied to the New York Times about how much he indeed knew about the ethical violations he and the Washington Post were in pursuit of before they killed the idea. But why'd the Times bury it in the corrections section? The NYTpicker contacted the Times for comment:
In an email to The NYTPicker, a NYT spokeswoman stands by the postscript. "The note speaks for itself," wrote Diane McNulty, the spokeswoman. "Information came to our attention after the Sept. 12 article and we decided that this note was warranted." McNulty did not elaborate.
Either the Times is embarassed they didn't dig deeper or needed to set the lines running for a larger report on how Brauchli's completely full of shit. Sadly, this is the kind of ethics violation Clark Hoyt would go to town on if he was allowed to write about anything else besides the New York Times. Also, sadly, this is how your newspaper sausage is made.