New Hill Center Poetry Series to be sponsored by The Washington Post

Cover of "Praise Song for the Day: A Poem...

Cover via Amazon

By Nicole Lafond


In honor of National Poetry Month, CBS DC compiled and posted a list of the “Best Poetry Events in Washington, D.C.” yesterday. As I read through the list, one stuck out to me- “Hill Center Series: Elizabeth Alexander Reading.”

On April 10, the Hill Center will launch its new poetry series at the Old Naval Hospital, CBS D.C. reported. The event will be co-sponsored by The Washington Post and The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center.

The Naval Hospital was recently renovated and now serves as a cultural arts center. It is two blocks from the Eastern Market Metro on Pennsylvania Avenue in the Southeast.

Ron Charles, fiction editor of The Washington Post, will host this new series. The initial event on April 10 will feature a reading by Elizabeth Alexander and a discussion of her work, led by Charles.

In his blog post this month, Charles explained his plans for the new series.

“As the host of this new quarterly series, I’ll be interviewing notable American writers about their verse and what influences and inspires them.”

Native to Washington, Alexander is a notable poet to be the launching point for this new series. She is a professor at Yale University and has written six books. In 2009 she read her poem “Praise Song for the Day” at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

Charles credited editorial direction of the project to Robert Casper, director of the Library of Congress’ Poetry and Literature Center, and organizational direction to Mary Brownlow, programming consultant for Hill Center.

The three began planning for the poetry series in September of 2012.

The second conversation of the series will take place on Oct. 1 of this year and will feature a reading and discussion with poet Nick Flynn.

Charles was thrilled to be appointed the host position for the series.

“For me, hosting the Hill Center Poetry Series is like a revival of The Washington Post’s beloved ‘Poet’s Choice’ column, which I had the honor of editing for several years.”

As a co-sponsor of the event, The Post plans to supply advertising and promotional material. The presentations will be free to the public, but those wanting to attend have to RSVP online and order tickets.

Events such as these have become popular among various publications and news outlets recently. Politico hosts discussions and interview with various D.C. celebrities almost twice a month at its Politico Playbook Breakfasts and Playbook Cocktails events.

Although beneficial and educational, I must question the ethicality of these types of publication-sponsored events. Are news organizations and publications actually creating news, and therefore gaining free publicity, by sponsoring or hosting these open forum discussions and interview events?

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers recently posted an article on its website that argued hosting events is a beneficial activity for news outlets.

“If organizing events makes it possible to both create closer ties with communities and provide an additional revenue source, they would seem a win-win initiative for any news outlet. There have also been signs of newspapers waking up to engaging more directly with their audience.”

Audience interaction and revenue boosting are both perfectly honorable goals, however I can’t seem to ignore the fact that publications and news outlets creating news for other publications and news outlets will never be an ethical practice.


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