The Atlantic's Salon Dinners

More

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!

Jump to comments
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.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

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

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In