Who is (and isn’t) ditching the WHCA dinner

February 13, 2017

To go or not to go? Attendance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner has been a topic of much debate in recent months as journalists prepare to put on formal wear and hobnob with a president who routinely bashes the press.

Advocates of attending say that it’s just a dinner and showing up would provide some much needed comity. Others say it’s a chance to celebrate journalism during a difficult period for the press.

Those who are against it have several reasons: the Trump administration’s hostility to the press; the unsavory optics of journalists hobnobbing with their sources; the dinner’s increasingly stingy scholarship program.

Plus, Samantha Bee is holding a spoof dinner on the same night. There might be some competition for comedic star power and attention outside the Beltway.

So, who’s in and who’s out? We’ve reached out to several news organizations to see if they plan on participating in the evening’s festivities, and we’ll update the list if and when we hear back:

Axios: IN. Here’s founder and CEO Jim VandeHei: “I assume we will have a small presence, given we are a young start-up with lots on our plate.”

BuzzFeed: OUT — but not because of the White House Correspondents’ Association. As it has in previous years, BuzzFeed is instead throwing “an alternative, inclusive party” for those who didn’t score invites or those who did but would rather go elsewhere.

“We believe an independent, aggressive, and evolving press corps has never been more important, and our decision not to attend bears no reflection on how we view the WHCA. We’ve never attended the dinner as an organization, and we do plan on donating money to the WHCA.”

The New Yorker: OUT, according to a spokesperson interviewed by The New York Times.

The New York Times: OUT. The Gray Lady stopped sending journalists in 2008 and has no plans to start again. “It is an unseemly spectacle in my view,” Executive Editor Dean Baquet told The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove.

Politico: IN. Here’s Editor-in-Chief John Harris’ remarks to The Daily Beast:

My view is that the dinner has taken on exaggerated importance in the eyes of many and the questions about this year’s event may be just the latest manifestation of that exaggerated importance. The job of the news media is to illuminate public officials and hold them accountable on behalf of our audience. We don’t need any president’s blessing — not this one, or the past one, or the next one—to do that. That’s how we defend our values and live up to our responsibilities. Attending the dinner has nothing to do with that, nor does skipping it.

Vanity Fair: OUT. Editor Graydon Carter was succinct in his justification for ditching the dinner for a fishing trip:

Mr. Carter, who has feuded with Mr. Trump for decades, was asked whether he had a particular reason for canceling this year’s festivities. ‘Trump,’ Mr. Carter replied, ‘and the fish.’

The Washington Post: IN, according to a spokesperson.