How About Paying A Few More Journalists?

I figured everything that needed to be said had been said about the abominable “tradition” of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. But then I read (almost by accident, given the stupid and misleading headline: “How Sarah Palin Is Right About Washington”) a column by Margaret Carlson, of all people, who made this relevant observation:

The better criticism of the dinner is financial, not political: While hundreds of our colleagues have lost their jobs and news budgets have been slashed, we are spending a king’s ransom to create the illusion that we are important.

Yep. Sure, the dinner kicks back a little bit to a scholarship program for “aspiring journalists,” but now many smart kids are really going to study journalism even with a free ride if there are virtually no paying jobs upon graduation? Worse yet, the dinner seems to be a self-celebration by those who have won the “winner-takes-all” sweepstakes whereby a handful of news-readers and commentators and even scribblers have comfortable and lucrative careers, often for producing material that would embarrass a high-school newspaper editor (I’m looking at you, Peggy), while an enormous amount of creative talent is being poured right down the drain. And the scam is perpetuated by events like this, since eyes and page-views are drawn by “celebrity journalists” whose bankability justifies their royal status.

Carlson is appropriately embarrassed by the whole scene. Maybe she should organize a large boycott next year, and become a real celebrity.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.