I’ve written on this topic before, but I have to point out again how wrong I think it is for journalists to have cozy meetings with the people they cover. The Atlantic’s David Bradley is defending the practice, as, of course, he would since he’s been doing it for some time. Not just at the previously reported on private dinners he’s hosted, but in sponsored dinners he’s hosted at his home. Sound familiar? Bradley doesn’t even have the qualms the Post brass had about whether or not the dinners would be on the record.
They are always off-record, he said, because ‘there is a great deal of constructive conversation that can take place only with the promise that no headline is being written.’ He also emphasized that while corporate sponsors will have input into the dinner, Atlantic Media has the final say in the topics and guest-list.
Still, corporate clients clearly help set the agenda.
Atlantic spokesperson Zachary Hooper told Talking Points Memo on Monday that ‘the corporate sponsor comes to us and says, “We’re interested in having a discussion on a certain topic.”‘ And some corporate sponsors, TPM reported, have included AstraZeneca (“Healthcare Access and Education”); Microsoft (“Global Trade”), G.E. (“Energy Sustainability and the Future of Nuclear Power”); Allstate (“The Future of the American City”); and Citi (“The Challenge of Global Markets”).”
The big stakeholder missing at the schmanky table? The readers, AKA the public, AKA you and me. I’m sure it’s nice to believe he’s doing this in the name of journalistic excellence, but that’s too much wool for my eyes. If you want to cover them, find out what they’re doing and tell us. We’ll pay for it if it’s worth it. But pretending to offer us something real when we know you’re having private time with Big Business and Big Government is just sad. Why be a news organization if you’re not going to report every single thing you learn? You might as well get into the party planning business, Dave, it’s so obviously your forte. The whole thing is kind of sick. Like Peter Dinklage said (so sexily – like he says everything!) on “30 Rock”, “Shut it down!”