This is surely a sign of the times, and not a good one:

For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post is offering lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to “those powerful few” — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and the paper’s own reporters and editors.

The astonishing offer is detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he feels it’s a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff.”

The offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator for private lobbyist-official encounters — is a new sign of the lengths to which news organizations will go to find revenue at a time when most newspapers are struggling for survival.

And it’s a turn of the times that a lobbyist is scolding The Washington Post for its ethical practices.

“Underwriting Opportunity: An evening with the right people can alter the debate,” says the one-page flier. “Underwrite and participate in this intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth. … Bring your organization’s CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama administration and congressional leaders …

“Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No. The relaxed setting in the home of Katharine Weymouth assures it. What is guaranteed is a collegial evening, with Obama administration officials, Congress members, business leaders, advocacy leaders and other select minds typically on the guest list of 20 or less. …

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. But does this really surprise anyone? The WaPo was unashamedly pro-Obama last year – seeing fit to officially admit it a few days after he was elected, and about a month before his inauguration they were soliciting the public for the chance to have their own personal announcement posted to Obama in their classifieds section in time for his swearing-in ceremony. The catch? The message had to be “congratulatory in nature.” The prices started at $10 per ad for their “floating” Congrats-to-Obama section.

But even though it’s not exactly surprising, that doesn’t make their latest attempt at cashing in on their pro-Obama bias any less distasteful. Hell, for that matter, the liberal McClatchy news outlet been working hard at making money on Obama’s election for months now via selling a book full of Obama glossies and articles taken and written on the campaign trail, as well as a DVD commemorating his “historic run.” Gee – no wonder they gave him such fawning coverage last year. Liberal bias + the need to raise $$=a complete loss of critical objectivity. Follow the money.

Interestingly enough, Ed Morrissey notes that a Hot Air reader dug up a WaPo editorial from 2001 in which they decried the very types of “bending over and taking it” they’ve done to make $$ in the Age of Obama.

My oh my. What a difference a President can make. I guess we can call this a “change” in media standards you can believe in – what few “standards” they have left, anyway.

Update 1 – 11:32 AM: Malkin’s got the WaHo’s response to the Politico story. Suffice it to say that it doesn’t pass the smell test.

Update 2 – 1:46 PM: Howie Kurtz reports that the “salons” have now been cancelled (via ST reader steveegg). Here’s the explanation:

Washington Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth today canceled plans for a series of policy dinners at her home after learning that marketing fliers offered lobbyists access to Obama administration officials, members of Congress and Post journalists in exchange for payments as high as $250,000.

“Absolutely, I’m disappointed,” Weymouth, the chief executive of Washington Post Media, said in an interview. “This should never have happened. The fliers got out and weren’t vetted. They didn’t represent at all what we were attempting to do. We’re not going to do any dinners that would impugn the integrity of the newsroom.”

Moments earlier, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said in a separate interview that he was “appalled” by the plan, and he insisted before the cancellation that the newsroom would not participate.

“It suggests that access to Washington Post journalists was available for purchase,” Brauchli said. The proposal “promises we would suspend our usual skeptical questioning because it appears to offer, in exchange for sponsorships, the good name of The Washington Post.”

LOL – a show of hands how many of you believe that this salon series would have been cancelled had it not been for the leaked reports about it?

I didn’t think so.

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