Buzzfeed’s rival WHCA party sparks talk of feud — or did someone just mail the check late?

April 19, 2013
Scene of the crowd at a reception before the 2006 WHCA dinner. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)
Scene of the crowd at a reception before the 2006 WHCA dinner. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Has it come to this? The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is so bloated yet so exclusive that it’s now prompted a secession?

Well, something like that, anyway. Buzzfeed, the six-year-old Web site that’s a relative newcomer to political coverage, announced this week that it had been shut out of the April 27 dinner at the Washington Hilton — and so instead will throw its own rival party at the same time.

Reps for the social-media site say their application for a table at the 3,000-person dinner was rebuffed by the century-old press association, which fueled speculation about snobbery or a feud underlying the decision.

But Julia Whiston, the WHCA’s executive director, shot down the old media vs. news media storyline: Buzzfeed, she told us, submitted its application for a table weeks late — several days, in fact, after the association had already distributed all the coveted seats to other media organizations last month. A complicating factor was that no Buzzfeed staffer was a member of the WHCA when invitations for table requests went out – their White House guy, Zeke Miller, had just left the company for a new job.

The scene in the Hilton ballroom at the 2003 dinner. (Ricky Carioti / The Washington Post)
The scene in the Hilton ballroom at the 2003 dinner. (Ricky Carioti / The Washington Post)

Buzzfeed’s press director, Ashley McCollum, told us they do have a WHCA member on staff but declined to discuss their deliberations with WHCA further. (“We don’t feel comfortable repeating private conversations,” she said.) But Whiston said Buzzfeed’s new White House reporter, Evan McMorris-Santoro, didn’t sign up until last month, sometime after the group started accepting applications for tables. Regardless, she said, they didn’t apply on time: “You could be a member for 20 years and if your check came in late,” you’d still be cut off, she said.

So anyway! The rival Buzzfeed bash, at Jack Rose Saloon in Adams Morgan a few blocks away from the Hilton, will seek to capitalize on the mobs of media gadflies who generally congregate in Washington for the four of five days of party sprawl surrounding the big dinner with the president — even if they don’t have a a ticket to the main event either.

Read earlier: Celebrities at White House Correspondents’ dinner to get their own ‘gifting suite’, 4/16/13

Even more White House Correspondents’ dinner celebrity guests!, 4/11/13

Greta Van Susteren is skipping the White House Correspondents’ dinner, 4/11/13

White House Correspondents’ dinner: An early look at celebrity guests, 4/10/13

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Emily Yahr · April 19, 2013