Another one bites the dust: People and Time magazines have nixed their long-standing annual pre-party on the Friday before the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
A spokeswoman for Time, the parent company of both publications, said that Time will be participating in the dinner itself but that People would be making a donation to the association instead of buying tables at the dinner.
“This year we have decided to focus on supporting the White House Correspondents’ Association, which plays a crucial role in advocating for the broadest possible access for the press at the White House,” Time chief content officer Alan Murray said in a statement.
The swanky kickoff soiree was one of the bright lights of the annual WHCD party circuit, attracting celebrities who mingled with top journalists and other denizens of official Washington (a sample confab: at last year’s bash, we watched top Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett gab away with supermodel Karlie Kloss).
Stargazing, though, wasn’t its only charm — the People/Time party was famous for the often groaning “swag bags” presented to departing guests. Typically filled with high-end beauty products, gadgets and artisanal sweets, The Reliable Source once clocked in the freebie-motherlode at a solid 20 pounds. People began throwing a WHCD-eve bash in 2006, and in 2009, Time joined as a co-host.
The glossies are just the latest media organizations to pull the plug on WHCD-adjacent festivities. Vanity Fair and Bloomberg nixed their regular A-list after-party, while the New Yorker canceled its pre-party. Plenty of celebrities, who in years past might have angled for an invitation, are expected to stay home this time. One reason for the dimmer wattage is the polarizing President Trump and his infamous media hostility, although Trump won’t be attending this year’s dinner.
Some media organizations have grappled with whether to attend the annual dinner, which critics have long dinged on a couple of fronts. For one, they say, the celebrity factor has long ago eclipsed its mission of highlighting the work of journalists and raising money for journalism scholarships. Others complain that a night of schmoozing among journos and the people they cover (especially in the era of an administration avowedly “at war” with the press) looks just a little too cozy for comfort.
Though some have called on the fourth estate to skip the dinner this year, not everyone is following People’s lead. There was talk that CNN would stay home, but the network instead said it would continue to buy tables, but would eschew bold-faced names as guests and instead would invite journalism students.