The event smorgasbord known as the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is a few weeks away, and BuzzFeed is initiating the annual invitation arms race, sending out invites today for its concurrent “Bowties & Burgers” party at Jack Rose Saloon.
The delicious irony of the BuzzFeed party, co-hosted this year with Facebook and sponsored by Geico, is like an illustration of the current state of affairs. The weekend has become Washington’s sparkliest, most openly sponsored in a city that is regularly flooded with town cars and corporate cash. Veteran correspondents are happy to remind newcomers to the swanky carnival that in their day, the dinner meant walking up hill to the Washington Hilton both ways in the snow and all they got for their trouble was some steak and Fawn Hall.
But in the new world order, BuzzFeed has branded itself as the intriguing outsider at what has been dubbed “Nerd Prom,” skipping the party (which it may or may not have been rebuffed from last year by the WHCA) to host it’s own simultaneous shindig much like the cool kids in high school boozing at a neighboring spot without corsages.
The media organization — the largest producer of online personality quizzes that allow readers to determine their “Mean Girls” spirit character — accurately surmised most people in Washington are more Gretchen Weiners than Glenn Coco when it comes to WHCD invites.
“It tapped into this group of people in D.C. who don’t get invited to the dinner,” said Ashley McCollum, VP of business development and communications, about the inaugural party. “It felt right to us, so we decided to do it again.”
This year, BuzzFeed will take over both floors of Jack Rose to account for last year’s larger-than-expected turn out. McCollum still anticipates a packed house.
— Greg Richter (@OwenTew) April 28, 2013
So who are these party-goers and what has made the event a success? Young media, staffers and other moderately connected government folk packed the downstairs bar and booths in 2013, and the “House of Cards” cast made a surprise guest appearance later in the evening.
Yet, BuzzFeed’s greatest draw, aside from a more easily scored ticket for some, is a lack of pretense that their event is anything other than a party. There is no facade of camaraderie or needed schmoozing between sources, which has long been the justification for other media organization’s participation in the weekend. Just a GIF booth and a hard working DJ.
And hopefully a lot more dancing.