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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Bit of Navel-Gazing About the Media and the Campaign Trail

About 250 folks trudged through the bitter cold to the Folger Shakespeare Library to hear five pundits dissect the media and the 2008 presidential race at a Vanity Fair forum Tuesday night. Really! And it's not like this was going to be covered on the midterm or anything. Is D.C. a crazy place or what? Here are the CliffsNotes:

· VF's Todd Purdum kicked it off by asking whether the mainstream media are broken. Everyone (even the blogger guy!) agreed they are not. Dan Bartlett, the White House aide turned CBS analyst, said they might have a branding problem, though.

· Frank Rich of the NYT said reporting still matters to readers. And the Times doesn't care if they read it "in print or online or on their iPhone, or pick it up on their fillings from outer space." Ha!

· Blogger guy Josh Marshall (of influential Talking Points Memo) said it's hard out there for a blogger: Advertisers still favor print. Really?

· Rich doubts that Sarah Silverman turned Florida for Barack Obama, but wondered if John McCain lost Indiana "because of crossing David Letterman."

· Andrea Mitchell said she used "SNL" and Jon Stewart clips in her NBC reports because they "added texture." She dissed the Clinton campaign for trying to be cool with its Internet contest for a campaign song, "and they ended up with Celeste Dion." Celine? "Some Dion."

Another Big Event to Seek Out on Jan. 20

Forget about Michelle's gown or how to get a swearing-in ticket. The looming question about Inauguration 2009: What's Oprah planning?

The multimedia queen hinted early on that she'll come to Washington for the big event: In a radio interview on the morning of Election Day, she declared that she had already bought her dress. But you don't expect Ms. Winfrey to be just another flag-waver on the parade route, do you?

Sources involved in the process tell us that Winfrey hopes to broadcast three shows from D.C. during inaugural week and that she has reached out to the Kennedy Center for discussions about possibly hosting one there. Neither the KenCen nor Harpo Productions would comment.

Also, event planners who say they're working for her have been making calls around town seeking a ballroom or other site to host a big party. That's the one you want to crash.

Reframing the Issue

Hmmm . . . don't remember Tom Daschle sporting these funky red glasses when he was in the Senate. Now the proposed HHS secretary looks so . . . Thomas Dolby? Alton Brown? Sally Jessy Raphael!

· Serena Williams at Tuesday's Wizards game. The U.S. Open tennis champ (white shirt, black pants) sat courtside with Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein; got a round of applause when caught on the JumboTron; posed for pictures for young fans.

· Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken -- in town to raise money for his Minnesota recount battle -- getting a shoeshine yesterday at Union Station.

Quoted

"This wasn't any different than going on a date with someone you barely knew and hooking up with them. The only difference is I can pay my rent."

-- Ex-call girl Ashley Dupré describing her liaison with former New York governor Eliot Spitzer. The 23-year-old escort told People that the polite, casually dressed "Client 9" was strictly business: "Some guys, they want to have conversations. . . . With him, it clearly was not like that."

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