LEADING BY EXAMPLE?: On Thursday morning, the Columbia Journalism Twitter feed blasted out an advertisement for an event that would take place on its campus later that night: “TODAY: Delacorte Lecture: An off-the-record conversation w/Vanity Fair editor in chief Graydon Carter, 7pm, Lecture Hall.”

For years, Columbia has hosted these lectures featuring magazine editors. The audience is usually made up of J-school students who are studying magazines and are required to attend the talks. The lectures are — as the Columbia Web site advertises — open to the public.

This story first appeared in the April 15, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

As a result, they have always been on the record and, over the last few years, recordings of them have been posted online after they’re over. That is, until the last few weeks.

The recordings of the three most recent lectures — with New York’s Adam Moss, Hearst’s Ellen Levine and People’s Larry Hackett — haven’t been posted. At the Hackett lecture, Cyndi Stivers, an adjunct professor at Columbia who is running the series this year, approached a WWD reporter in the audience to inform him that the event was off the record. Hackett also told the room that it was off the record. Likewise, the Carter lecture is also supposedly off the record.

So what’s the sudden reversal in policy?

Elizabeth Fishman, a Columbia spokeswoman, said that, “Recently, as these [lectures] are increasingly covered — and I think that’s partly a reflection of the instant news cycle — we have found that these editors are hesitant to be as candid as they would be if they were speaking just to a class. If that’s the case, our students are going to get less out of it.”

She said that it’s up to the editors to make the events off the record (and clearly they’ve recently been happy to accept). But since the event isn’t in a classroom — it’s a public event at a journalism school, of all places — isn’t it overly optimistic to assume everyone would honor the off the record arrangement?

“It is a true shame that such a journalistic institution as ‘on the record’ cannot be honored in a journalism school,” Fishman said.

Victor Navasky, a professor at the journalism school who runs the series but is on sabbatical this year, took a slightly different tack. In an interview, he said that in his time running the series, he never remembered an editor asking for a session to be off the record. And if they did?

“I can’t recall who, but I’m sure that it’s happened that someone says, ‘I’d prefer this to be off the record,’ and I say to them, ‘That’s fine, but you do so at your own peril. It’s not just open to journalism school students. It’s open to the public. You have hundreds of people out there.’ The one policy that has been in place for some time is that it is open to the public.”

He continued: “If I said, ‘This is off the record,’ I’d be fooling myself to say something in front of 200 people. I don’t know who they are.”


SEATING PLAN: Having the coolest table at the White House Correspondents’ dinner is a losing game, and so far the competition is pretty light. Glamour’s Cindi Leive will play host to Rashida Jones; America Ferrera; Kristina Schake, special assistant to First Lady Michelle Obama, and Rachel Roy. David Remnick will miss Tracy Morgan this year, but Zach Galifianakis will be there to cheer him up at The New Yorker’s table, along with Jon Hamm, Jennifer Westfeldt and the Coen brothers.

Dining with Time Inc. at Time magazine’s table are Sen. Scott Brown and Steve Buscemi and Terence Winter of “Boardwalk Empire.” They are joined by “Game Change” director Jay Roach and producer Danny Strong, Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper and designer Tara Subkoff. Fortune will host Mira Sorvino and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.

At Tina Brown and Newsweek’s tables, Colin and Alma Powell will rub elbows with Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer of “True Blood,” Jason Sudeikis of “Saturday Night Live,” President Obama’s speechwriter Jon Favreau, Michael Kors and six-packed congressman Aaron Schock. Diane von Furstenberg will also sit with Newsweek to keep Barry Diller company.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan will hold court at The Wall Street Journal’s table with CIA director Leon Panetta, Sen. Max Baucus, Gov. Nikki Haley and congressmen Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy.

The Atlantic and National Journal, in a combined tabling effort, will host Taylor Kitsch of “Friday Night Lights”, Maria Bello and Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev of “The Vampire Diaries.”

CBS will find a chair for Kerry Washington, Daniel Dae Kim, Morgan Fairchild and Hill Harper of “CSI.”

At ABC’s tables, Disney chief executive officer Bob Iger will host White House chief of staff William Daley; National Security adviser Tom Donilon; Cathy Russell, Jill Biden’s chief of staff; White House social secretary Jeremy Bernard; Sen. Marco Rubio; Attorney General Eric Holder; Adm. Mike Mullen; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Salem Al-Sabah, ambassador from Kuwait; Gary Locke, U.S. ambassador to China, and Amy Rule, Rahm Emanuel’s wife. To lighten up the ABC crowd, Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks will join ESPN anchor Erin Andrews, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet of “Modern Family” and Jane Lynch of “Glee” at the network’s tables.

After the festivities, celebs will head to after parties held by Vanity Fair and Bloomberg at the French ambassador’s residence or Capitol File’s event at the Ronald Reagan Building. This year, MSNBC’s party will be harder than ever to get into at the Embassy of Italy.


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