Add it up. When all is said and paid for after all the parties surrounding the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner this weekend, some media organizations will drop as much as $200,000 each to entertain an elite list of guests.
Live updates from the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner and events
As the numbers suggest, the media-sponsored partying before and after the annual dinner on Saturday has become the tail wagging an overfed dog. The dinner — 3,000 people hobnobbing with the president in a televised lovefest — costs media companies $2,750 for each table of 10; the event at the Washington Hilton will raise about $150,000 for journalism scholarships, according to the WHCA, a nonprofit group.
Pfft. Small change.
In the past half-dozen years or so, the real money has been poured into celebrity wrangling and brunches, receptions and blowouts before and after the big dinner.
The two biggest after-dinner events, one hosted by Vanity Fair and Bloomberg Media and another hosted by MSNBC, will fete 400 and 750 people, respectively, in rented embassies (France and Italy, respectively). The Vanity Fair-Bloomberg party is so chichi that guests have been asked to send digital headshots of themselves in advance in order to discourage gate-crashers.
At least a dozen other media companies, including People magazine, the Hill newspaper, Yahoo, Reuters, Politico, the New Yorker and the co-owned Atlantic and National Journal will do up their own parties (The Washington Post is hosting a pre-dinner reception at the Hilton).
The schmooze-a-palooza has grown so elaborate that news organizations have offloaded some of their costs. Not only have some hosts teamed up (Bloomberg and Vanity Fair, Yahoo and Reuters), but most events are “sponsored” by other companies that pay the host, in cash or in kind, for the privilege of piggybacking on the party.
Some of the victuals at MSNBC’s bash, for example, will be brought to guests by Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, Smartwater and Bacardi. One party-giver, Capitol File magazine, lists a “presenter” (the Bipartisan Policy Center) and five corporate sponsors on its invitation, including Mercedes-Benz and Corona Light. In a strange-bedfellows pairing, the Atlantic has signed up a Las Vegas hotel, the Cosmopolitan, to sponsor one of its invitation-only affairs.
Tammy Haddad, the Washington media consultant who is the godmother of the WHCA dinner’s mix and mingle, plans to co-host a brunch this weekend at a historic home in Georgetown. Last year, 600 people came to her brunch, but it’s unknown how many will come this year. The event will be studded with celebrities, political figures and journalists, of course. But Haddad says the biggest influx has been businesspeople who want to meet celebrities, political figures and (maybe) a journalist. The newest arrivals over the past two years have been tech executives, from such companies as Twitter, Foursquare, Groupon and Facebook, among others.