By Katharine Weymouth
Sunday, July 5, 2009
I want to apologize for a planned new venture that went off track and for any cause we may have given you to doubt our independence and integrity. A flier distributed last week suggested that we were selling access to power brokers in Washington through dinners that were to take place at my home. The flier was not approved by me or newsroom editors, and it did not accurately reflect what we had in mind. But let me be clear: The flier was not the only problem. Our mistake was to suggest that we would hold and participate in an off-the-record dinner with journalists and power brokers paid for by a sponsor. We will not organize such events. As publisher it is my job to ensure that we adhere to standards that are consistent with our integrity as a news organization. Last week, I let you, and the organization, down. The Washington Post remains committed, now and always, to the highest standards of journalistic integrity. Nothing is more important to us than that, and nothing will shake that commitment.
So what happened? Like other media companies, The Post hosts conferences and live events that bring together journalists, government officials and other leaders for discussions of important topics. These events make news and inform their audiences. We had planned to extend this business to include smaller gatherings, a practice that has become common at other media companies.
From the outset, we laid down firm parameters to ensure that these events would be consistent with The Post's values. If the events were to be sponsored by other companies, everything would be at arm's length -- sponsors would have no control over the content of the discussions, and no special access to our journalists.
If our reporters were to participate, there would be no limits on what they could ask. They would have full access to participants and be able to use any information or ideas to further their knowledge and understanding of any issues under discussion. They would not be asked to invite other participants and would serve only as moderators.
When the flier promoting our first planned event to potential sponsors was released, it overstepped all these lines. Neither I nor anyone in our news department would have approved any event such as the flier described.
We have canceled the planned dinner. While I do believe there is a legitimate way to hold such events, to the extent that we hold events in the future, large or small, we will review the guidelines for them with The Post's top editors and make sure those guidelines are strictly followed. Further, any conferences or similar events The Post sponsors will be on the record.
We all make mistakes and hope to be forgiven for them. I apologize to our readers for the mistakes I made in this case.
We remain committed to you, our readers. We remain committed to the highest standards of integrity. And while we will continue to pursue new lines of business, we will never allow those new avenues to compromise our integrity.
In the meantime, I hope that we can continue to count you as a reader while we promise to continue to bring you the news as it develops, unbiased and with the best reporting and editing we can offer.
Publisher and CEO, The Washington Post