On Saturday, journalists peeled themselves away from Tweetdeck to rub elbows with celebs and celebrate the First Amendment. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner was different. Minimal fanfare, fewer celebrities, an absent President, and an increasing skepticism of media contributed to an all around unconventional vibe. But, it’s a new year and times they are a-changin’.
And this year, the nerds took back their nerd prom.
Some attendees (clearly out of their writing sweat pants for the first time in months) were visibly uncomfortable in their heels and cummerbunds. Others were strutting their stuff hoping to pull off a stealthy slide onto the red carpet. But most could be found talking shop at various pre-dinner parties.
The parties were hosted by the big guys — The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, AP, Reuters, USA Today and more. Each boasted their own version of a boozy bash reflective of their reputation and readership. Washington Post’s party was full, classy, and dimly lit. USA Today’s party was hopping with millennials, generous on the appetizers, and lit with a blue hue. Oh, and Madeleine Albright was there. Casual. Finally, the AP party was hot, dorky, packed to the brim and lit like an office Christmas party. As the clock neared 7:30, attendees took advantage of last libations before heading to their seats.
Following the pre-parties, 2,600 attendees dawdled to their tables. Chef Andre Cote, the Executive Chef at the Washington Hilton led the effort to coordinate the mass feeding. Chef Cote told C-SPAN that the dinner is an opportunity to “prepare unusual foods for a large amount of people.” The menu was kept a secret until the swaths of hungry celebrities, journalists, and students descended upon the enormous room. 10/10 would eat this food with thousands of nerds again.
After dinner, while folks were grasping for left over morsels, carefully rationing their remaining wine, and wondering if they still fit in their dress, the speakers started to arrive on stage. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reminded the room: “Always look for the best obtainable version of the truth”. President of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Jeff Mason, denounced accusations that the mainstream media is “fake news”. Several standing ovations from tipsy attendees rang out in support of journalism. Finally, Hasan Minaj lamented between side-splitting digs about how he, an Indian American, was able to stand up there and roast the President.
After the festivities, the crowd dispersed to their various post-parties. Those with less stamina shuffled outside. As I called my Uber I noticed a tall silver fox waiting for his own ride share. It was Jim Acosta. A shameless selfie ensued.
Watch the full White House Correspondents’ Dinner here.