Obama sends mixed message with ‘correspondents’ dinner’

This past weekend, Washington enjoyed its own annual spring ritual, when 3,000 of the town’s policy and media elite dressed up for its own “prom...

This past weekend, Washington enjoyed its own annual spring ritual, when 3,000 of the town’s policy and media elite dressed up for its own “prom night” at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It’s a night that features the president, a comedian to riff on the president and other politicians, a few awards to journalists, and a sprinkling of A, B, and C-list celebrities to brighten the place.

I have gone to a number of these over the years, and they can be entertaining. Yet the dinner in the era of Obama does raise the irony bar in my opinion, and his attendance flies in the face of his new approach to the influence world of Washington, if not to the media itself.

The dinner is funded by the Washington media elite, and the tables are all paid for by the major media companies primarily as a way of entertaining their political friends and their large advertisers. The presence of celebrities is simply an inducement to get the clients there. But here is a president who has shunned the influencers that make up the bulk of the attendees, and who has bypassed the traditional media in the room to get his message out directly to voters. Talk about mixed messages.

I think the way the campaign announced the VP pick of Joe Biden last August might go down in media history as the first large nail in the coffin of the traditional media elite. By putting the news out via text messaging—and on a Saturday morning at that—it was a pretty clear sign that the traditional media is no longer as important as it thinks it is. Yes, it’s tradition to celebrate their president, but this president might be the one that pushes them further into oblivion.

-Don Goldberg, partner, Qorvis

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