Wash Post SALON-GATE Update: Marketing fall-guy is really journalist

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Washington Post Publisher, Katharine Weymouth, apologizes today but still blames her marketing guy, for what bloggers have called, Salon-Gate. On Friday, Howard Kurtz, Post media critic, writes that the controversy started with "fliers... approved by a top Post marketing executive," Charles Pelton. Pelton said, it was, " 'a big mistake' on his part and that he had done so 'without vetting it with the newsroom.'" So is Pelton just one more marketing man unfamiliar with journalism's values? No. Kurtz never mentions on Friday, what the Post admits today --that Pelton is, in fact, "a former newspaper journalist."

Who said you can’t have it both ways?

In damage control mode, Washington Post publishes an article and a letter from its publisher, Katharine Weymouth, today that, continues to blame –but not fire–“Charles Pelton, a marketing employee” for a scandal that some bloggers have dubbed “Salon-gate.”

Turns out it is tough to blame the “dumb-about-journalism-ethics-marketing guy” when he is, in fact, a journalist. The Post reveals  (emphasis mine): “Pelton, a former newspaper journalist who had started his own meeting business, was hired to oversee this new business.”

The Washington Post’s article summarized the background of the scandal by paragraph five: “The plan to host a series of off-the-record, sponsored dinners at Weymouth’s home in the District, and invite Obama administration officials, lawmakers, lobbyists, business leaders, and Post editors and reporters, exploded in controversy when a promotional flier described an effort to sell sponsorships of $25,000 for each dinner or as much as $250,000 for a series of 11 dinners. The flier promised exclusive access to the newsmakers and journalists. The first of the dinners, billed as salons, was to be held July 21 and focus on health-care policy. Weymouth canceled the dinner after Politico.com disclosed the details of what was being offered to potential sponsors in the flier.”

The article’s lede provided the essence of their excuse: “a hasty time frame, haphazard planning and miscommunication led to the release of a promotional flier that inaccurately described the newspaper’s plans for a series of sponsored ‘salons’ with influential insiders.”

Yet, later in the same article, The Post also claims their haste and haphazardness had lots of planning.

Weymouth and Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said they had a, “lengthy and detailed series of planning meetings involving the newspaper’s executives and top newsroom representatives”  and a “long-standing plan” to “create a new business involving dinners, seminars and conferences” that later included these salons at Weymouth’s home.

Weymouth tries to reassure readers that they have control : “From the outset, we laid down firm parameters to ensure that these events would be consistent with The Post’s values.” So why doesn’t Pelton, head of this marketing debacle–who they now blame, but don’t fire– not know about these “firm parameters”?

The problem obviously is much deeper over there at The Post than just the error of sending out an unapproved “promotional flier.”

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Wash Post SALON-GATE Update: Marketing fall-guy is really journalist

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