Erik Wemple writes at The Washington Post:
Former Atlantic contributing editor* Marc Ambinder is showing appropriate contrition for having participated in some dubious journalistic practices back in July 2009. As exposed by some Freedom Of Information Act documents secured by J.K. Trotter of Gawker, Ambinder was pursuing a copy of the speech that then- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to make at the Council on Foreign Relations. So he emailed renowned Clinton advocate and spokesperson Philippe Reines.
The back-and-forth confirms anyone’s worst suspicions about access journalism. The transaction went like this:
• Ambinder asks for a copy of the speech;
• Reines says he’ll send it, with conditions;
• Ambinder writes back, “ok”;
• Reines lays out the conditions:1) You in your own voice describe them as “muscular”
2) You note that a look at the CFR seating plan shows that all the envoys — from Holbrooke to Mitchell to Ross — will be arrayed in front of her, which in your own clever way you can say certainly not a coincidence and meant to convey something
• Ambinder writes, “got it.”3) You don’t say you were blackmailed!
The story, it turns out, rated Clinton’s speech “muscular” and indeed made reference to the seating thing: “The staging gives a clue to its purpose: seated in front of Clinton, subordinate to Clinton, in the first row, will be three potentially rival power centers: envoys Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell, and National Security Council senior director Dennis Ross,” wrote Ambinder, completing his compliance with Reines’s conditions.