This morning we wrote about an upcoming fundraising luncheon hosted by the Franklin County Republican Party. The event was supposed to feature Columbus Dispatch Editor Ben Marrison and other members of the Dispatch staff.
Around 2PM this afternoon we received a Tweet from media blogger Jim Romenesko linking to his post about the luncheon. Romenesko contacted Marrison and was told that the event had been cancelled.
We confirmed the cancellation with Mr. Marrison this evening. He provided us this statement:
As of this morning, we are not participating in the panel. For context, The Dispatch like most newspapers has a long history of speaking to various organizations in the community as a way of putting our staff in front of various audiences — neighborhood groups, non-profit and philanthropic organizations, educational organizations, etc. Some of those events generate a small amount of money for the host organizations.
One of the events editors have spoken to is the Franklin County Republican Party luncheon, which draws about 60 people. In this case, we were unaware that this was a profit-making luncheon. We didn’t ask enough questions about the net financial benefit until we received and reviewed the flyer late yesterday (it appears there is a small financial benefit to the hosts once expenses are deducted). We contacted Poynter’s ethicist to gain her perspective as well. Because both we and the party’s leadership were uncomfortable with the appearance of an impropriety, the panel was canceled this morning.