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Goozner wonders why everyone is shocked over WPost story

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The story about the Washington Post “pay for access” proposal isn’t astonishing to Merrill Goozner, who writes:

It’s a long standing practice by one of the few sections of the news business that remains profitable — the newsletter and trade journal business. There’s also a vibrant conference sponsorship industry that sells exclusive access to top government officials.

For instance, a Texas-based outfit called Pharma Education Concepts, Ltd. is running one of its trademarked “Pharma Conferences” in Cambridge, Maryland in late-August. Dubbed “GMP By The Sea,” the meeting brings top drug industry executives together with Food and Drug Administration officials to hear the latest thinking on globalization and the regulation of drug and biologic manufacturing processes. Featured speaker this year is Murray Lumpkin, deputy FDA commissioner for international and special programs. Pricetag: $1,495 a ticket.

In mid-June, a scrappy industry newsletter called FDAWebview filed a citizens petition with the FDA demanding journalistic access to this and any private meetings where FDA officials appear. Its editor couldn’t afford the $1,495 needed to send a reporter to cover the GMP By The Sea meeting where Lumpkin, a public official, might say something newsworthy.

The real issue is what will be the ground rules for these Post-sponsored conferences. The public has the right to know what gets said in these meetings with its elected representatives and civil servants. I stand with FDAWebview. Any session where a top government official appears should be open to the news media, right on down to the lowliest blogger.

As always, thanks for the perspective, Gooz.

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