So this is the weekend in which the proud watchdogs of American democracy, the reporters whose broad role was appointed by the Founders and anointed by the Court, the press members who are charged with no less than foiling government corruption and toiling in the service of civic life…go all Molly Ringwald on us.
Yep: the White House Correspondents’ Dinner! Pretty in Ink! Sixteen Scandals! Or something like that!
In other words: PROM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
True to tradition, Politicos and Those Who Like to Fancy Themselves Politicos are, like any good prom-goers, marking this year’s black-tie event—an evening, indeed, so reminiscent of an actual prom that it might as well end with Chuck Todd and Claire McCaskill slow-dancing to Boyz II Men—with a paroxysm of desperate self-importance. The White House Correspondents Association has produced an entire news site—a “micro niche site” that “goes ‘behind the scenes’ of one of the most powerful clubs in America, the white house correspondents”—dedicated to coverage of
itself its eponymous dinner. Media-political Twitterers have established several hashtags (the most popular of these—more than the obvious #whcd—being #nerdprom) to record their observations of the event. Not to be outdone, Politico has established a blog, Dinner Dish (motto: “inside Washington’s most glamorous weekend”), which exists solely to document WHCAD gossip and is thus chock full of tantalizing tidbits about said Most Glamorous Weekend. Including: the revelation as to whom Kate Walsh, Private Practice actress and Cadillac spokeswoman, has invited to escort her to the event (spoiler alert! It’s Sean Smith, flack for the Department of Homeland Security!). And which news organization will be hosting Pirate Fighter and American Hero Richard Phillips (hint: it rhymes with Schloomberg!). And which “beautiful people” were on the scene at the launch party for Sam Haskell’s new book, Promises I Made My Mother (one of them was Miss DC—yep, that actually exists—Kate Marie Grinold!).
(Or, um: PROM????????????)
Now, sure, one could say that affairs like the WHCAD, which so shamefully marry politics and entertainment, and which so glibly cement and celebrate the infamous Beltway Bubble, are precisely the reason so many Americans mistrust national political reporting—and national political reporters. And one could point out that to fetishize this weekend’s events via breathless blog posts and gossip-myopic “news” sites and the like is only to exacerbate a widespread and serious cultural problem.
But that would be, like, such a buzz kill. It’s prom, after all—PROM!!!!!!!!! Don’t worry about anything else, you crazy kids. Just strap on some heels, spritz on some Obsession, and go make democracy proud!
Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.