The White House Correspondents’ Dinner Is…A Problem

Here’s why.

Elizabeth Spiers


The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is an event of relevance to 0.00000005% of people, but I loathe it because it’s a nationally televised event where the rest of America sees a bunch of journalists and politicians and celebrities rubbing shoulders in the same room, and this reinforces the conspiracy that the right loves to embrace that all of these people are colluding against them.

When I was the editor-in-chief of The New York Observer, I didn’t allow our journalists to attend the dinner. I did allow our media reporter to cover the extent to which journalists are obsessed with it, though, and in 2011, I sent two of our reporters to D.C. to cover the several days of parties, the reaction, and so on. That particular year, President Obama sat at the dinner, secure in the knowledge that Osama bin Laden had been killed. The people who would normally break that news were at the dinner.

So the people who broke the news were an aide of Donald Rumsfeld’s and … Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. As we noted in the subsequent story (one of my favorite’s from that period), Mr. Johnson did not attend the dinner.

I’m happy to have some kind of normalcy again where we have a President who’s not thin skinned and can handle the skewering comedians typically dish out at this event. I agreed to live blog it for MSNBC as the resident party-pooper and you can follow it on their site. But:

I do not like the party.

I do not think we should go.

I think it’s generally loathsome.

An obscene ridiculous show.

I just don’t think it’s good for journalism, generally. If journalists want to have a party and let off steam, they can do what they’ve always done traditionally: go to the shitty bar on the corner of 54th and hell and have some fun among themselves. They do not need to mingle with celebrities and the people they cover and pretend that they’re all in on some kind of joke. Because if they are, they’ve forgotten the purpose of our jobs.



Elizabeth Spiers

Writer, NYU j-school prof, political commentator, digital strategist, ex-editor in chief of The New York Observer, founding editor of Gawker