Is the WaPo Manufacturing Journalism?

I uncovered this remarkable Craig’s List ad:

Small publishing company seeks qualified writer to interview director Michael Moore during press conference June 19 in New York. The ideal candidate will have the ability to write and communicate and produce the interview quickly and cleanly. Candidate will have access to Mr. Moore’s press conference. The candidate will have to deliver the article by June 22 with 1,300 words and incorporate the asked questions during the interview (specific questions will be sent to you in order to provide guidance and focus for the article/interview). Payment for the final written article is limited to $200.00. We understand this is amount is low, but the opportunity is unique for a strong writer to interview Michael Moore. Send resume and writing samples to editor Karl Hente by June 12.

I’m wondering precisely how any journalist can “write” or “investigate” a piece, if the journalist’s questions are “prepared” by another party in advance (were these questions, for example, pre-approved by Michael Moore?). A Google search reveals that Karl Hente appeared with Ivan Weiss at a May 2006 conversation, revealing that he copy-edited at the Washington Post (“Current projects: new business development, grantwriting, research.”). Hente’s involvement with the Washington Post is corroborated by his work here on an April 2007 “Community Guide” as copy editor. Although Hente claims to have left the Post, a “Karl F. Hente” is listed on the WaPo staff page.

So what happened? Was a Post staffer assigned the Michael Moore piece? And did he then walk away in disgust when Moore’s staff demanded all of his questions cleared in advance? Did desperate editors proclaim that a Michael Moore piece was too important not to feature, no matter how fabricated the journalism, and did copy editor Hente then continue on in panic? And did this then result in the Craig’s List ad with this “unique” “journalistic” opportunity?

I will be making calls on Monday to determine if this was indeed a Washington Post article or possibly a side project. I certainly hope that such dubious ethics aren’t being practiced by the Post or elsewhere.

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6 Comments

  1. If the WaPo is really listing major freelance gigs on Craigslist, I’d say that’s a story unto itself. It’s gotta be something else. I’ll bet you money or beer.

  2. It’s a pity you didn’t ascertain that the *small company* was not the Washington Post (obviously) but Mac Directory magazine, edited at that time by Karl Hente, where the article appeared in due course. I’m amazed anyone would think the Wapo, even today, would act like this. I think you owe it to the web to amend or remove this post.

    See http://formentowordsinprint.blogspot.co.uk/2007/07/michael-moore-interview.html

    for the announcement by the lucky freelancer who got the interview that it had hit print a few weeks after your post.

    I’m all in favor of rants and ranters, but this post does seem to highlight the difference between ranting and journalism . . . .

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