Harper’s Ken Silverstein recently revealed that the Washington Post’s David Broder and Bob Woodward have been regularly appearing “on the business-lecture circuit” and receiving fees for speaking before a wide variety of special-interest corporate groups.
With his persistent and tenacious reporting, Silverstein forced the Washington Post to address the matter. In her Sunday article, the Post’s ombudsman — Deborah Howell — writes that the paper’s policy requires journalists to get “permission from department heads” before accepting such speaking engagements, but “Broder and Woodward did not check with editors on the appearances Silverstein mentioned.”
Howell confirms that Broder received speech fees from the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and the Minnesota League of Cities, and accepted a “13-night ‘Rio and the Amazon’ cruise in exchange for three speeches about presidents he has covered.” Silverstein notes that Broder and Woodward are “regulars on the talk circuit” and that the problem is not restricted to just a few speeches.
When confronted by Howell, Broder offered a dissembling response:
Broder said he adheres to “the newspaper’s strict rules on outside activities” and “additional constraints of my own. I have never spoken to partisan gatherings in any role other than a journalist nor to an advocacy group that lobbies Congress or the federal government.” […]
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. Wilkinson said Broder had cleared speeches in the past. Editors should have been consulted on all of the speeches as well as the cruise.
“I am embarrassed by these mistakes and the embarrassment it has caused the paper,” Broder said.
Woodward said all of his speaking fees are going to a foundation he started with his wife. Harper’s Silverstein notes that this means Woodward “reaps significant tax savings” by giving these fees to his charity.
Howell concludes that Broder did not follow the rules, while Woodward’s case is “somewhat different” but still potentially troubling. “The Post needs an unambiguous, transparent well-known policy on speaking fees and expenses,” she writes. Neither Howell nor Post Executive Editor Len Downie explain what actions they plan to take in response to ethical failures by two of its more prominent employees.