May
02
2011

What's Wrong With the White House Correspondents' Dinner

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank deserves some credit for writing this about all of the awful things about the White House Correspondents' Dinner:

The fun begins, appropriately enough, at the offices of the American Gas Association, where White House reporters are feted by the lobbyists of the Quinn Gillespie firm. More lobbyist-sponsored entertainment comes from the Motion Picture Association. Along the way, journalists wind up serving as pimps: We recruit Hollywood stars to entertain the politicians, and we recruit powerful political figures to entertain the stars. Corporate bosses bring in advertisers to gawk at the display, and journalists lucky enough to score invitations fancy themselves celebrities.

Milbank points out that his own paper invited Donald Trump as one of its guests (which is reason enough to write such a column, and skip the event altogether, as Milbank did).

He adds that the parties, after-parties and celebrity-studded receptions add up, and that:

the cumulative effect is icky. With the proliferation of A-list parties and the infusion of corporate and lobbyist cash, Washington journalists give Americans the impression we have shed our professional detachment and are aspiring to be like the celebrities and power players we cover.

I think Americans long ago rendered a verdict on the "professional detachment" of Beltway media elite. He closed with this:

My late colleague David Broder once recalled how, when he began newspapering in mid-century, journalists embraced the credo that "the only way a reporter should ever look at a politician is down." He said they "prided themselves on their independence, their skepticism, and they relished their role in exposing the follies and the larceny of public officials."

That's an odd sentiment to associate with Broder, who rarely expressed that kind of critical attitude towards politicians. The most notable exception might have been Broder's hostility towards Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky affair.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.