In recent days, it's become increasingly difficult to figure out what you can say, and who you can say it to, and what you can do and still keep your job if you work for the Washington Post. Based on what the Post has published, or allowed, over the last several years, here are five handy guidelines for Post writers, or wannabe-Post writers to stick in their wallets or next to their keyboards.
1. You may on one (1) occasion, refer to the former First Lady of the United States and the current Secretary of State as a bitch as long as the reference is a) indirect and b) meant to be humorous, no matter the actual success of the joke.
2. You may take payments from a company you write about without disclosing said payments as long as you have reached a position of significant stature within the Washington Post. Writers who are uncertain of their stature should check with their editors before entering into financial relationships with magnates at risk of being hauled before the Securities and Exchange Committee.
3. Stay far way from event-based efforts to generate revenue for the Post. It's the marketing staff who will get the ax, of course, when such efforts go wrong, but it's best not to be associated with the resulting bad publicity. Your stature is always at greater risk than the company's executives, who can survive being involved in discussions about such events as long as they don't approve the specific language of the invitations.
4. Avoid, even in private correspondence, using slangy language employed by the people you cover. All conversations should be presented in inverted-pyramid form to avoid confusion about your role as a reporter.
5. If you make the mistake of thinking everyone cares about your family problems and write a hopelessly tacky piece about them, you will lose your column. That lapse in judgment in no way disqualifies you from running a major online initiative for the Post, of course.