Major Garrett, CBS Chief White House Correspondent, wrote an op ed in the Post Friday to reaffirm his commitment to the Correspondents’ Association and their annual dinner. He urged the media and celebs to appear in order to celebrate the important work of covering the White House and use the dinner to shine a spotlight on educating young journalists, something we need now more than ever.
The Correspondents’ Association sponsors over $100,000 in scholarships awarded at the annual dinner. In 2016, the association began a mentoring program pairing students with members of the WHCA for career advice and counsel.
Garrett argues that journalists that regularly attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but won’t this year because of President Trump, are applying a double-standard.
[N]o self-respecting White House reporter has ever been a president’s prom date, and the dinner isn’t a date at all. It’s a cease-fire with bad wine and crowded tables. And if we, the media, stand Trump up at the proverbial dance because we’re pining for another “date,” we make it that much easier for him to say we’re playing favorites. And in this case, at least, he’d be right.
He makes the point that several media outlets have ignored the dinner for several years. Dean Baquet of The New York Times said in 2011 that his organization has stopped attending because “it just feels like it sends the wrong signal to our readers and viewers, like we are all in it together and it is all a game. It feels uncomfortable.”
However, for those outlets that regularly have attended, avoiding this year’s dinner because of President Trump is hypocritical and sends the wrong message. “If the dinner were canceled because (gasp!) a president made a few snide remarks about White House reporters, that act of self-regard would say that the First Amendment is negotiable and that emotional well-being takes precedence over professional responsibilities. For myself and for my colleagues on the beat, let me say unequivocally: never.”
Instead, Garrett concludes, media outlets should address the perceived challenges and threats of a new administration hostile to the press by renewing their commitment to the WHCA dinner and the First Amendment.
Garret is a former White House Correspondents’ Association board member.