No Dinner For You!

Frank Rich breaks some news, and bloggers get all huffy about it.

In his Sunday column, Frank Rich took the unusual step of breaking some news — announcing that the New York Times would no longer attend the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

“This fete is a crystallization of the press’s failures in the post-9/11 era: it illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows,” Rich wrote. “Such is literally the case at the annual dinner, where journalists serve as a supporting cast, but it has been figuratively true year-round.”

Bloggers couldn’t help launching into the usual jokes.

In an entry titled, “No date for the prom,” TBogg wrote on a self-titled blog, “Karl Rove’s dance card has a few more vacancies on it for the Washington Post to fill.”

For some, the big news was buried in the 13th paragraph of Rich’s column.

“I’d argue, though, that dropping out of the Correspondent’s Dinner and hiding the news inside of a columnist’s Sunday listing is a weak way to do it,” maintained Catherine McTamaney on A Little Simplification. “It should be front page news that most of the media abdicated its responsibility for fair reporting to the spin in this administration.”

Many applauded the Times’ move and wondered how it will influence the decisions of other news organizations.

“This is something that always bothered me; there’s supposed to be a level of objectivity there in order for both the press and the politicians to get things done,” admitted Demosthenes on Shadow of the Hegemon. “This sort of chummy nonsense just reinforces the clubhouse atmosphere in Washington, which in turn accentuates the division between D.C. and the rest of the country. It looks like others are getting bothered about it too. It looks like the Times is doing something about it. Good.”

“Admitting a problem exists — it’s a start,” acknowledged William K. Wolfrum on his blog. “Of course, there are plenty of top journalists who still fervently believe that journalism and stenography are the same thing. But when the Times does things, other papers and media organizations tend to follow. So while it may not be much that the Times is backing out of the WHCA dinner, hopefully it’s the start to a slow death to the buddy-buddy system currently in place for our nation’s top politicians and journalists.”

“In an age where the line between newsmakers and news generators is blurring, this will be an interesting case study to see if the Gray Lady can move news organizations to generate a more black and white distinction between the two,” said Gene Rose on The Thicket.

Others wondered what took so long.

“Many, many media observers, including yours truly, have been calling for an end to these events for quite a while,” trumped Hamilton Nolan on The Cycle. “They inevitably lead to embarrassing (and sometimes sickening) moments like NBC bulldog reporter David Gregory being reduced to a backup dancer for a Karl Rove mock-rap. The upshot of the Times’ move will be that all the other media outlets that still participate in the events will look more and more like clueless hacks. But don’t bet on these traditions fading out completely any time soon; the DC press corps is famously insular.”

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Christina Hernandez is a CJR intern.