Washington Babylon — June 17, 2008, 12:42 pm

Post Rules Appear at Odds with David Broder/Bob Woodward Speaking Gigs

As I reported this morning, the Post’s ombudsman Deborah Howell told me in a phone conversation that she was not sure whether the Post had official, written guidelines regarding journalist speaking engagements. However, it appears there are relevant written guidelines posted online, made available by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Assuming that’s still a current document, it is difficult to see how Broder and Woodward’s extracurricular engagements square with the Post‘s own rules. Some representative quotes:

This newspaper is pledged to avoid conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest, wherever and whenever possible. We have adopted stringent policies on these issues, conscious that they may be more restrictive than is customary in the world of private business…

To avoid real or apparent conflicts of interest in the coverage of business and the financial markets, all members of the Business and Financial staff are required to disclose their financial holdings and investments to the assistant managing editor in charge of the section. The potential for conflict, however, is not limited to members of the Business and Financial staff. All reporters and editors, wherever they may work, are required to disclose to their department head any financial interests that might be in conflict or give the appearance of a conflict in their reporting or editing duties…

We freelance for no one and accept no speaking engagements without permission from department heads…It is important that no freelance assignments and no honoraria be accepted that might in any way be interpreted as disguised gratuities.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

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