Time for the Washington establishment’s annual bloody nose.
The tweaked cartilage and red stream usually comes courtesy of the fist of some self-styled media outsider, or at least someone looking for some pageviews. This year, Hamilton Nolan of Gawker does a fine job with the form, writing of the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner: “Great to know that our fearless watchdogs are busy swilling wine with the people they are supposed to be covering and introducing them to their wives and posing for pictures with Mila Kunis.”
Back in 1992, Michael Dolan wrote in the Washington City Paper, “Each spring, capital scribblers get a reminder of their sullen craft’s adolescent roots.” Last year, The Post’s Dana Milbank took his turn: “The correspondents’ association dinner was a minor annoyance for years, when it was a ‘nerd prom’ for journalists and a few minor celebrities. But, as with so much else in this town, the event has spun out of control. Now, awash in lobbyist and corporate money, it is another display of Washington’s excesses.”
Someone’s got to stand up for this dinner.
I choose Caren Bohan, Reuters’ White House reporter and president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
Bohan WHCA Counterargument No. 1: Don’t forget the charity!
Though the mainstream media and the tributarial media like to focus on the guests — Van Susteren gets Lohan! — and the parties — New Yorker fete here I come! — the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association is working on something more substantive. “There is a lot of glamour surrounding the dinner, but that does not take away from our mission to provide scholarships to journalism students. . . . It’s a very worthy cause,” she says.
Bohan Counterargument No. 2: Nonsense about excessive coziness.
“I don’t think it’s a conflict of interest for journalists to get together with people they cover for an evening,” says Bohan. “I don’t think that any of us cover the White House any differently because we get together for this annual dinner and invite administration officials.” Many reporters, she says, get to corner officials that they’d normally get to meet only via a spokesperson.
Bohan Counterargument No. 3: Celebrification not a problem.
“I don’t think it takes away from what we’re trying to do with the dinner,” she says. Whatever people may think about this huge event, says Bohan, she spends far more time as WHCA president on “travel and logistics and access for the journalists who cover the White House every day.” So don’t go thinking that the WHCA is just a party-planning outfit!
Bohan Counterargument No. 4: She doesn’t feel slimy.
OK, all those talking points notwithstanding, Bohan, don’t you feel a little slimy at these festivities? “No, I don’t,” she responds. Not even a touch slimy? “I go to some of the parties but I don’t go to a lot of them.” Just a tidbit of slime? “No, not at all. . . . When I go to these events, for me, it’s mostly to see colleagues.”