The Washington Post

White House correspondents’ dinner reaches critical mass of star power

The annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, held Saturday at the Washington Hilton has transformed into a weekend of glamorous and exclusive parties, write Joel Achenbach and Amy Argetsinger, though for a different reason:

The correspondents’ dinner is officially a way to honor good journalism and hand out scholarships, but in recent years, it has drawn fire for being excessively focused on Hollywood celebrities and fostering too much coziness between journalists and the people they cover. . .

In years past, stars would come once and never return, having discovered that the dinner wasn’t actually at the White House but rather in a big hotel ballroom, and that most of the people attending were ink-stained journalists, obscure Washington staffers and assorted grumpy, old politicians. But there is a critical mass of star power now, and so even the stars who aren’t currently in a Washington-themed movie or TV show will attend, just to be where the action is — and to hang out, apparently, in their own comfort zone with other stars. (Read the rest of the article here. Find a complete transcript of President Obama’s speech here.)

Media organizations’ need for advertising revenue has driven the transformation, Paul Farhi reports:

Instead, the before- and after-derby has become an exercise in “branding,” an effort by publishers, networks and other media companies to raise their profiles among a subset of the WHCA dinner masses, event planners say. The real targets are a few hundred elite and influential guests.

President Obama’s speech at the White House correspondents’ dinner poked fun at Congress, Fox News, and the recent dedication of the George W. Bush Library. (The Washington Post)

The parties help news organizations court would-be advertisers and reward existing ones by putting them in proximity to power and the Hollywood figures who will be transported and pampered at the media’s expense this weekend. The goal is to cement the party-giver’s status as a big-time Washington player, even when some party-givers, such as Vanity Fair magazine, aren’t really Washington players. (Continue reading here.)

See below for more coverage from The Post.

RGIII | Redskins quarterback is surprise at after party

The guests at Vanity Fair and Bloomberg’s after party fell over themselves for Robert Griffin III, who had failed to appear at the dinner itself:

Among the stars who came running over to get his RGIII photo: Kevin Spacey.

Big fan? “He’s, like, heroic,” Spacey insisted.

Conan O’Brien’s comedy routine at the 2013 White House correspondents’ dinner took jabs at different television networks, the gay marriage debate in the Supreme Court, and the threat of N. Korea. (The Washington Post)

Kevin Spacey’s “House of Cards” spoof (video)

Advertising | The 20-lb. swag bag

Gift bags aren’t really a gift from party hosts, but from the legions of eager vendors who typically donate freebies in hopes of getting attention for their products from influential VIP guests — who, at the Friday night St. Regis event included Gayle King, Gabby Douglas, Fred Armisen, Jessica Pare, Daniel Dae Kim and others celebrities.

The alternative scene | Buzzfeed’s antinerdprom

As often happens, the less cool crowd may have had the most fun on Saturday:

Instead a party before or after the big dinner with the president, Buzzfeed skipped the gala and threw a rival bash at the same time, blocks away at an Adams-Morgan bar.

Lines formed early outside the Jack Rose saloon — mostly 40-and-under media/political gadflies without the pull to get a dinner ticket — with a few crafty individuals sneaking through the kitchen door to ensure a spot inside. . .

How it was like the WHCA dinner:The crowd shmoozed noisily all night, barely hushing their voices when the founder of Buzzfeed took the mic for a few words.

How it was different: People danced!

Max Ehrenfreund writes for Wonkblog and compiles Wonkbook, a daily policy newsletter. You can subscribe here. Before joining The Washington Post, Ehrenfreund wrote for the Washington Monthly and The Sacramento Bee.



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