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WAMU News Director Resigns Over Fundraising Event

Jim Asendio, news director at D.C.’s WAMU-FM, resigned Tuesday over a station-sponsored event for donors in which journalists were expected to attend.

“I do not believe that reporters should be exposed to the real or perceived influence of individuals or foundations who fund the work of the newsroom,” he said in a message posted to Washingtonpost.com, and obtained by columnist Richard Prince.

Asendio told Prince that after he raised his objections to WAMU’s general manager, he received the following email: “Understand that your refusal to participate in a major station event involves a permanent, irreversible statement to me, about whether you are part of my team.”

The station’s development office had scheduled a breakfast for this morning for 30 people, with a panel of nine reporters and producers speaking. “Allowing people to see the impact that their investment makes in our work is completely appropriate. However, the station does not permit crossing the line between a funder seeing that impact and a funder being allowed input into the planning process for coverage,” a spokesperson told Prince.

Asendio said he believed the event reminiscent of a canceled plan developed at the Washington Post by publisher Katharine Weymouth in 2009. The Post had sent out brochures offering sponsorships for an “exclusive Washington Post salon” at Weymouth’s home, promising off-the-record dinners with reporters.

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