The Washington Post Steps in It

I think most of us in the media ethics business would be shocked if we knew all of the "community-oriented" events and "good" causes that the business and public relations side of various news outlets get involved in. And The Washington Post's decision to co-sponsor a Sept. 11 memorial walk organized the Pentagon -- one that would appear to have the potential to become a politicized event -- is a major no-no.(Since when doesn't Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon take advantage of an opportunity to hammer home the administration's "message," particularly with the president's numbers heading for the toilet on his handling of the Iraq situation?)

Internal Post opposition to this idea seems to have all the momentum of a snowball rolling downhill in the Alps. In an online chat today, the paper's media critic Howard Kurtz said "I wish The Washington Post were not co-sponsoring this event. It is an operation by the Pentagon -- a place that we devote substantial resources to covering -- and therefore subject to all kinds of interpretations. It is not the same, in my view, as the corporate side of The Post handing out awards to the best teachers or other kinds of nonpartisan civic activities." Kurtz chat

Now, officials of the Post's Newspaper Guild at the Post, which represents more than 1400 employees, are formally asking the paper to withdraw from the event.Editor&Publisher story

An earlier Editor & Publisher story on the subject noted that Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie, Jr. declined to comment on the sponsorship of the event, other than to say, "it does not affect our coverage." But it's hard to believe that Downie, who has publicly stated that he does not even vote in order to stay objective in his stewardship of the paper, is not among those who thinks this is a serious mistake and potential embarassment for the paper.

A prediction: The Post cuts its losses and pulls out of this event in the next 48 hours.
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