Skip to comments.'Wash Post' Ombudsman Probes (David) Broder and (Bob) Woodward (Dinosaur Media DeathWatch™)
Posted on 06/21/2008 5:07:50 PM PDT by abb
In her Sunday column this week, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell responds to charges of improper money-making from special-interest groups against two of the newspaper's stars, David Broder and Bob Woodward. The allegations were carried in the current issue of Harper's by Ken Silverstein, the magazine's Washington editor.
Both Broder and Woodward recently took buyouts from the paper but remain as contract workers.
The Post Stylebook's ethics and standards section says only: "We freelance for no one and accept no speaking engagements without permission from department heads." Howell observes: "Broder and Woodward did not check with editors on the appearances Silverstein mentioned."
Broder tells Howell, "I am embarrassed by these mistakes and the embarrassment it has caused the paper."
The ins and out of all this are too complicated to summarize here -- a link to the full article is below. But Howell concludes: "Broder should have followed his own and The Post's rules. Woodward's case is somewhat different, but Downie would like to know and should know what groups Woodward is speaking to in case he wants to object. Woodward's name and The Post's are synonymous, and whatever Woodward does is associated with the paper, even if he's rarely there.
"Most of all, The Post needs an unambiguous, transparent well-known policy on speaking fees and expenses. It should deal with charities and those on contract. Approvals for speeches that involve fees should be sought and given in writing by a high-ranking editor. Fees should be accepted only from educational, professional or other nonprofit groups for which lobbying and politics are not a major focus -- with no exceptions."
When Speech Isn’t Free
By Deborah Howell
Sunday, June 22, 2008; B06
The propriety of David Broder and Bob Woodward taking fees or having expenses paid for speeches to special-interest groups was raised recently by Ken Silverstein, Washington editor of Harper’s magazine, in his Washington Babylon blog. Silverstein found the fees unseemly and asked whether editors had approved them.
Broder, 78, has worked at The Post 42 years, been its premier political writer and is probably the country’s best-known political columnist. Woodward is the rare print reporter who became rich and famous on investigative journalism.
Both took an early retirement buyout last month. Broder continues as a columnist on contract. (Disclosure: I have known Broder for more than 25 years and consider him a professional friend.) Woodward has ties to the paper going back to the Watergate scandal, and he still consults for the paper. He has a token contract for $1,200 a year, and he said he is available for consultation and assignment.
The Post Stylebook’s ethics and standards section says only: “We freelance for no one and accept no speaking engagements without permission from department heads.” Broder and Woodward did not check with editors on the appearances Silverstein mentioned.
Free speeches are no problem unless they create the appearance of an endorsement, said Executive Editor Len Downie. The Post has its own community speakers bureau, which pays staffers $100 a speech. As a rule, journalists are not to take fees or awards from government agencies, partisan groups or special-interest groups that focus mainly on lobbying. Speaking to educational or nonprofit groups for fees may be approved; whether to allow expenses to be paid is decided case by case. Downie unearthed a 1995 memo outlining the rules on speeches, but it is not widely known about in the newsroom.
Didn’t Woodward get lifetime employment based on being the hero of the Watergate scandal and breaking that scandal? I guess I’m surprised if he didn’t and that he took an early retirement buyout. But it’s true, Woodward and the Post are linked in people’s minds. Sort of like Dan Rather and CBS, Tom Brokaw and NBC .
Drive-By Media whores. That’s all they are and all they’ve ever been. A fitting capstone to their careers.
David Broders and Bob Woodwards Lame Alibis
By Ken Silverstein
Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howells column on Bob Woodwards and David Broders ethics was not as disappointing as I had feared. Its a sign that the Post is at least going to examine the obvious conflict of interest posed by its employees giving paid speeches to corporate groups with lobbying agendas.
Howell acknowledges that Broder and Woodward broke the Posts own rules and did not check with editors on the appearances Silverstein mentioned. She extracts an apology from Broder, and says the Post needs an unambiguous, transparent well-known policy on speaking fees and expenses. . . . Fees should be accepted only from educational, professional or other nonprofit groups for which lobbying and politics are not a major focuswith no exceptions.
But Howell goes very easy on Broderwho has been flagrantly dishonest with his own employer and with Howelland Woodward, who is allowed to glide away from some very embarrassing matters. Also, Howell deals with only a few speeches by Woodward and Broder, even though Woodward gave dozens and Woodward gave roughly a score. I understand that she could not deal with each instance individually (nor did I), but she could have mentioned prominently the fact that the two men, and especially Woodward, are regulars on the talk circuit and that the problem is not restricted to the few speeches she discusses in her column.
Broder first told Howell, I have never spoken to partisan gatherings in any role other than [that of] a journalist nor to an advocacy group that lobbies Congress or the federal government. That turned out to be false, as Howell discovered, so Broder came back to say, I am embarrassed by these mistakes and the embarrassment it has caused the paper.
Broder told Howell he attended an event at the American Council for Capital Formation, but did not give a speech. So apparently someone at the ACCF made up this account of Broders speech to the group?
I reported that Broder gave a speech at a meeting of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (which paid him, he now admits, $7,000), which was a PAC fundraiser. Howell writes: Mary Beth Coya, the Realtors senior vice president for public and governmental affairs, said the event was not a fundraiser but was attended by elected officials to promote our government affairs programs. The event in fact was clearly promoted as a PAC fundraiser. And by the way, government affairs program is Washington-talk for lobbying.
I also reported that Broder spoke to the Gartner Healthcare Summit in 2007. He was advertised as a speaker on an Internet site, but Broder said he canceled the engagement, Howell reported. Thats possible, but since Broder has been so dishonest about all of this I wouldnt take it to the bank. (I did note in my earlier posts on this topic that I could not confirm all details, in part because neither Broder nor Woodward replied to requests for comment about their speaking gigs.)
Howell doesnt mention thisPost reporters, it seems, will call people to ask about their actions but wont take calls about their own. More outrageous is that Broder specifically denied to Howell that I had sought comment from him (which I know only because Howell told me during a phone conversation), even though I contacted him several times, by phone and email, beginning forty-eight hours before posting the first story.
Meanwhile, Woodward told Howell that he turns down lots of speech requests and gives many for free. Thats nice, but irrelevant, hes still broken Post policy by receiving payment for a number of the speeches he did accept. He also called Post policy fuzzy and ambiguous. So why didnt he ask anyone at the paper to clear things up for him before accepting so many speaking appearances for fees that apparently top (easily) $1 million?
Finally, Woodward told Howell all his speaking fees which range from $15,000 to $60,000 go to a foundation he started in the 1990s. He added, Its a straight shot into the foundation that gives money to legitimate charities. I think thats doing good work.
St. Woodward can don his halo and gaze in the mirror all he likes, but he really shouldnt treat Post readers with such contempt. The facts are clear. He reaps significant tax savings by giving the fees to a charity that gives away a small fraction of its assets, and by far the biggest beneficiary of his foundation is Sidwell Friends, the elite private school sitting atop a reported $30 million endowment and attended by his own children.
So this is accountability: We broke the rules, and were sorry. But as Post employees, we wont deign to answer questions from outside reporters; we are accountable only to our internal ombudsman, if bad publicity should prompt her to address such matters.
Howell reports that the Posts executive editor, Len Downie, unearthed a 1995 memo outlining the rules on speeches, but it is not widely known about in the newsroom. So the Post, it seems, has thirteen-year-old guidelines on paid speeches by employees, but few at the newspaper know about it.
Incidentally, Downie and Howell might want to review old editorials the paper ran vehemently denouncing members of Congress who accept outside speaking fees. In a 1991 editorial, and there were numerous similar ones, the Post complained that the Senate had not subjected itself to a ban on outside speaking and that senators and staffers could still accept up to $2,000one thirtieth of Woodwards current top feefor speaking before interest groups whose legislative fortunes they control. . . . Thats wrong, and as the Senate discusses the higher standard of conduct it has righteously voted to impose on others, the disparity will be all the more apparent.
I leave you with one of many comments posted on the Posts website by readers of Howells column. They get it, even if the Post doesnt:
Broder said he adheres to the newspapers strict rules on outside activities and additional constraints of my own.
Broder later said he broke the rules on those speeches. He also said he had cleared his speeches with Milton Coleman, deputy managing editor, or Tom Wilkinson, an assistant managing editor, but neither remembered him mentioning them.
Ok, so when Broder was first confronted he lied about the speeches. When he was faced with clear evidence he then admitted that he broke the rules but then tried to blame it on others by saying that he had told them. They of course didnt remember him saying a word (remind you of Judy Miller at the NYT?). Mr. Broder is obviously a serial liar who thought he could BS his way out of a mess of his own making. So the only question left to ask iswhat is the Post going to do about his repeated unethical conduct?
David Broder: ‘Serial liar’
This is inside Washington baseball, but it gives you insight to some of the people who set the tone in Washington media and thus drive media nationwide.
The “dean,” David Broder, has been caught with his pants down — reaping tens of thousands for speeches to lobbying groups, despite Washington Post rules against such, and not telling the truth about it either when called to account. Note, particularly, that Broder — and Bob Woodward, similarly skewered — refused to take questions from a reporter about this matter, though they make their living asking questions of others.
I don’t think journalists (reporters, editors, TV announcers or whatever you want to call them), should take fees for speaking. I think they ought to attempt to be as transparent about their financial interests as they insist politicians should be. And I think it is the height of hypocrisy when newspaper people refuse to be interviewed by other newspaper/TV/radio reporters about themselves for news reports. This phenomenon is not limited to David Broder, needless to say. It has surfaced from time to time locally.
I love it....a "charity" donation to the school for the ultra rich and glitterati. How to buy friends and influence people and still get a tax write off.
I went to school in Wheaton with Woodward. To even imagine him fathering a child is repulsive!!
Did they attend any Obama campaign planning sessions?
**shudder** A completely unwelcome visual.
Or is that the "Drive By and Pick Up a Check" media?
Who said it’s his?