In early 1914, the White House announced that Woodrow Wilson would hold a series of regularly scheduled press conferences. To the dismay of career White House reporters, whispers swirled that a congressional committee would determine which journalists deserved invitations. Eleven concerned press corps members banded together to establish the White House Correspondents’ Association, tasked with “the promotion of the interests of those reporters and correspondents assigned to cover the White House.” —History of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner by Jennie Cohen
The reporters concern was that news would be a commodity, distributed to a favored few. At this time the rumors were false, but the concern remains. Rumors suggested that the Trump Administration would evict the press from the White House briefing room. The Press Secretary subsequently held a meeting from which certain news organizations were excluded. Control of the news for political advantage is undemocratic and abhorrent to the idea of a free press. Kudos to Time and AP which voluntarily refused to attend.
The WHCA sponsors the White House Correspondents’ dinner, a charitable event which President Trump has said he will not attend. What he hopes to achieve by this isn’t clear–the dinner may be more fun without him. His boycott is unlikely to help sell his story that the press is a public enemy.
WHCA statement on the 2017 White House Correspondents’ dinner
The White House Correspondents’ Association looks forward to having its annual dinner on April 29. The WHCA takes note of President Donald Trump’s announcement on Twitter that he does not plan to attend the dinner, which has been and will continue to be a celebration of the First Amendment and the important role played by an independent news media in a healthy republic. We look forward to shining a spotlight at the dinner on some of the best political journalism of the past year and recognizing the promising students who represent the next generation of our profession.--Jeff Mason, WHCA president
The Dinner is a benefit for gifted students in college journalism programs. The WHCA has a long history; it will most likely survive and continue to serve the public whatever the Trump Administration does.