Why Tom Brokaw, Barbara Walters and Sarah Palin need to get over sniping about White House Correspondents' Dinner
What’s more annoying; the annual hand-wringing over celebrities and excess at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner or the cynical attempts by all to exploit it to their own ends?
Tom Brokaw and Barbara Walters complain that the event isn’t serious enough these days; too focused on silly celebrities for them to attend. But they somehow forget that august names such as Michelle Kwan, Sheryl Crow and Laurie David (wife of Seinfeld co-creator Larry David) attended the dinner way back in 2007.
Or that the entertainment included the Disneyland Golden Horseshoe Revue back in 1969 (personally, I would love to have been there the year before, when streetwise comic Richard Pryor was the headliner).
Sarah Palin called attendees “a—clowns” on Twitter, lowering the level of political-flavored discourse even further, without admitting that her daughter Bristol attended the 2011 dinner. She and Bristol also attended after-party events that year hosted by MSNBC (?!) and Vanity Fair.
What the WHCD really does these days, is confirm how much celebrity has become the most valued currency in all media, thanks to increasing competition everywhere. Once upon a time, “serious journalists” could gather in their own world, with a few well-known names hired or brought along to add a touch of glamour and excitement.
But some of the news media’s highest-profile names aren’t journalists at all, from Al Sharpton, Joe Scarborough and Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC to Anthony Bourdain on CNN, Sean Hannity on Fox News and celebrity kids Chelsea Clinton and Jenna Bush on NBC.
(Memo to Brokaw: you work for a news division which has hired five celebrity kids at various times, hired Palin to co-host Today when Katie Couric guest hosted on rival Good Morning America and stocked MSNBC prime time with non-journalists.)
Now more than ever, news outlets need to attract and hold attention. Which means leveraging celebrity where ever it comes.
With that out of the way, I’m ready to enjoy the performances, including a relaxed Barack Obama who dropped punchlines rooted in rap – “I got 99 problems and now Jay-Z’s one!” – and TV, noting correspondents had to decide whether to hire Conan O’Brien now “or wait five years and give it to Jimmy Fallon.”
(After all the groans, he missed the obvious comeback: “Too soon?”)
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