The Atlantic's Salon Dinners

250 atlantic mag cover wiki.png

Let me leap to the defense of my corporate slavedrivers at the Atlantic Media Company and say that I find this piece by Slate's Jack Shafer pretty thoroughly unconvincing. I'm biased, of course. But can Shafer really believe that "Every new off-the-record venue drives a measurable quantity of political discourse out of the public sphere and into the private"? If that's really a problem, then he has a lot more to complain about than the Atlantic Media Salons!

Fortunately, the quantity of political discourse isn't fixed or zero-sum. The potential public benefits of off-the-record discussions are many (as Shafer must know) and it is obviously not that case (as Shafer suggests) that each additional minute spent off the record leads to a one-for-one drop in the amount of time spent on the record.

That said, I do think there is a different issue here. My problem with the original with the Washington Post salons was that the business side was promising that the editorial side would operate under some constraints. The Atlantic Salons, to the best of my knowledge, don't have that problem. (I think the critical sentence from Atlantic owner David Bradley's memo on the subject is this one: "There is no constraint placed on either the moderator or our guests as to the questions raised or the opinions expressed.") But a good question, acknowledged by David, is whether this can be achieved in practice. And I think Slate Group editor Jacob Weisberg was right to bop me on the head for missing this point: "invited to a nice dinner at the publisher's house, journalists don't need to be told to behave."

(Also: I agree with what Megan McArdle writes here. I wrote this post and then read hers, only to realize she covered a lot of the same in-defense-of-the-corporate-masters territory.)

Photo: I can't find any pictures of the redesigned Atlantic on Wikimedia!

Presented by

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Politics

Just In