The White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD) has been a mainstay Washington to-do for years. Lately, however, it has come under fire for turning Hollywood–literally. In the wake of the event, some outlets continued the bashing but most lavished attention on the dinner or at least lauded it as harmless fun.
One of the quickest to slam the event was Sarah Palin, who did not attend. From her Twitter account, Palin indulged some rather salty language in criticism.
— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) April 28, 2013
Britain’s Guardian newspaper was so fascinated by the whole thing, the paper set Jim Newell to live blog the night.
Newell opened his coverage with a nice slap at the pretentiousness of it all.
Welcome to this special edition of Guardian Saturday Night Liveblogging! Why go out and have fun tonight when you can sit alone at the computer and read about other people going out and having fun? And in Washington DC, tonight is the one fun night of the year for reporters who hate their lives. Let’s think of them, and the celebrities who are forced to make awful small talk with them for hours as they promote their movies, as we watch tonight’s White House correspondents’ dinner.
Newell was also amused by the fact that these days, “actual ‘White House correspondents’ are lucky to get seats to their dinner” as the corporations give out tickets to big named celebrities and business buddies.
The New York Daily News gave a list of just a few of the singers and Hollywood stars that showed up to this year’s WHCD. Perhaps the fact that Barbara Streisand, Mad Men actress Jessica Pare, comedian Tracy Morgan, and actress Hayden Panettiere, along with cable TV’s Duck Dynasty stars brought some veracity to Tom Brokaw’s criticism of the event. Korean pop singer PSY, was also in attendance despite a recent flap over an anti-American song he performed.
Amusingly, Psy reportedly thought so much of himself that he didn’t mix with other attendees and refused to allow photos to be taken with other diners.
Also playing up the lack of seriousness of the star studded event, the Washington Post featured a 50 photo slide show of the “red carpet arrivals” preceding the event. Interestingly, of the 50 photos in the Post’s slide show, only about 10 of them were of journalists or anyone in the news media. Not one photo was of an actualWhite House correspondent. The rest were actors, sports figures, and performers.
In another piece, the Post chided the event as one filled with “red carpet posers,” and said it had come under fire lately.
“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,” the paper noted.
Most news outlets, though, treated the event as a wonderful extravaganza, seemingly oblivious to the somewhat absurd glitziness of the night.
ABC gave a glowing account of the “glitz and glamour” of the event and proudly announced that one of its correspondents won an award.
NBC likewise gushed over the event publishing an Obama-centric piece titled, “5 fantastic moments from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.”
Hollywood reporter Variety happily noted how closely intertwined denizens of Tinsel Town have become with the Obama White House by highlighting those ties.
One example of those close ties was the video that opened the dinner. It was a slickly produced panoply of people only someone very familiar with Washington media and Congress might know with actor Kevin Spacey reprising his House of Cards role, U.S. Representative Francis “Frank” J. Underwood, as the central figure. It portrayed “Rep. Underwood” as he talked about the dinner with such Washingtonians as White House spokesman Jay Carney, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Senator John McCain, Fox News correspondent Ed Henry, Politico’s Ben Smith and a host of other insiders; politicians and journalists both. The faces were all familiar to insiders, of course, but the general public will likely feel lost over the joke.
Like the UK Guardian, Politico also live blogged the event. But unlike the British paper, there was no hint of snark in Politico’s star struck coverage. Politico’s account was a breathless blow-by-blow account of all the celebrities, actors, sports figures, and musicians who attended the WHCD.
Scrolling down through Politico’s coverage one struggles to find the names of many actual journalists noted among the many bold-faced names listed.
Politco was also quick to report that many of the celebrities had predicted before the evening started that President Obama would be “funnier” than keynoter Conan O’Brien. No bias there.
On that same note, The Atlantic Wire was also happy to note that many thought Obama was “funnier” than O’Brien.
Speaking of glitz, for the New Jersey Star-Ledger the event was an opportunity to dish about what everyone was wearing. A serious topic, indeed.
In its piece, USA Today gushingly noted how even big name celebs fell all over themselves to get a photo with President and Mrs. Obama. USA Today was also excited to ask “who are you wearing,” when interviewing some of the celebs on the red carpet.
What is obvious about most of the coverage of the WHCD, these days if one is looking for a night dedicated to the Washington media one would forced to look elsewhere. The WHCD is more Hollywood than Washington.