During my 23 years of living and working in and around our nation’s Capitol, I attended one White House Correspondent’s Dinner, the annual bash where reporters, politicians (including the President) and celebrities mingle to pretend they like and/or respect each other.
Once was enough.
In a town where hypocrisy rules, the absurd idea of the press partying with people they are supposed to investigate objectively is both laughable and pretentious.
Washington thrives on pretension but I always thought the whole idea of the Correspondent’s Dinner was blatant for just about everyone.
I was invited to the dinner not as a reporter but as Vice President for Political Programs for the National Association of Realtors, the pinnacle, as it were, of my dozen years of swimming in the sewers of politics. When I had a chance to go to another dinner after returning to my chosen career as a journalist, I declined.
I had walked away from politics. I had walked away from drinking and I hoped I had also walked away from hypocrisy.
Critics of the media, and those in the profession, have questioned the Correspondent’s Dinner and its hypocrisy, especially this year when its means mingling with a President who openly despises the press.
Trump and his hangers-on called the media “scum” and “liars” and worse.
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, in a piece headlined “Cancel dinner plans Send ‘nerd prom’ to the history books,” writes:
Once merely embarrassing and ridiculous, the annual White House correspondents’ dinner is poised to tip over into journalistic self-abasement.
It’s time to stick a silver-plated fork in it.
The so-called nerd prom is a glitzy party — now a week-long blitz of related parties — in which Washington, Hollywood and New York media types schmooze it up with the public officials that some of them are supposed to cover, while looking over their shoulders to see whether Helen Mirren is really looking as fabulous as everyone says.
“The main purpose of the evening,” John Oliver once said, “seems to be providing photos of glamorous celebrities completely unaware of who they’re standing next to.”
Some have had enough. The New Yorker and Vanity Fair magazines, cancelled their events or participation this year. Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair said he is planning to go fishing in April instead of hosting his publication’s after-event party.
The New York Times is no longer sending its reporters or editors to the dinner.
For journalists to make nice with an administration that has trashed and blacklisted them conjures the abused wife who sends the cops packing, puts a little extra makeup over her bruises and hopes things will get better soon.
Sullivan says the press should never be Trump’s “prom date.”
A a career newspaper reporter and photographer whose work in the press goes back to more than a half century, I agree.
I’ve always subscribed to the advice of legendary Chicago newspaperman Finley Peter Dunne, who wrote that “it is the role of a newspaperman to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
So let’s cancel the damn Correspondent’s Dinner and get back to serving our role.
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