Since the White House Correspondents Association Dinner ostensibly celebrates the close and cozy relationship between DC journalists and the subjects they report on, Sam Bee offers a little primer on how they could actually try to improve their journalism instead of their relationships with politicians.
April 28, 2019

The White House Correspondents' Association Dinner has slowly morphed over the years from a celebration of the Fourth Estate to a pale imitation of a Friar's Club roast where professional comedians and politicians trade jabs at each other while celebrating their chumminess.

Until Donald Trump, that is.

Donald Trump's thin skin can't imagine having to sit there and be humiliated in front of the journalists he disparages daily. He has declined attending the WHCD since taking office and feigned victimhood so well after last year's roast by comedian Michelle Wolf's fairly tame jokes about Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' lies (a fact that was confirmed even by the Barr-redacted Mueller report), that he banned any administration official from attending this year's dinner.

The WH Correspondents' Association, instead of celebrating their journalistic independence, cowered in the face of Trump's disapproval and opted this year to invite historian Ron Chernow, rather than a comedian, who offered up milquetoasty platitudes of where we are in this nation.

As Eric Boehlert points out, "Trump is so far off the charts in terms of unstable, hateful, demented behavior, suggesting he’s 'not first or last' POTUS to act like this downplays our national crisis. [T]his is the message the DC press wants to hear: Trump isn’t that different; we’ll all get through this together."

So thank everything that is holy for Samantha Bee and the Full Frontal crew and their second "Not The WHCD" special. They didn't waste time with meaningless nothings on how great we're doing. In fact, Full Frontal's Mike Rubens and The Correspondent/Press Think's Jay Rosen talked about exactly how damaging the media's obsession with "balance" actually is.

"A 'balanced' treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality."

This has been a particular bugaboo of Rosen's press critiques for years. He has been advocating instead for "a citizens' agenda" to election coverage instead.

It revolves around the power of a single question: “What do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for votes?” From good answers to that everything else in the model flows.

A few things about that question, “What do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for votes?” Notice what it is not. It is not “who’s going to win?” It’s not “who are you going to vote for?” And it’s not “which party would do a better job at addressing…” For the whole purpose of the citizens agenda approach is to find an alternative to the horse race style in campaign coverage, which starts with “who’s gonna win?”.

It also gets us away from the damaging coverage of false equivalencies and balance, where we legitimize sides that have no legitimacy.

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