During Barack Obama’s years as POTUS, celebrities and journalists alike descended on Washington, D.C., to attend the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. For the better part of the last decade, the event maintained its star power and became a night of mixed industry mingling. This year’s dinner, however, was a decidedly different affair. Gone were the throngs of Hollywood A-listers. In their place? In the words of The Washington Post, “About 3,000 journalists, random plus-ones and curious hangers-on.” To put it bluntly, the evening was, well, dull.
However — and this is important — perhaps that’s a good thing. Aside from comedian Michelle Wolf’s controversial speech, the focus of the dinner rested squarely on the accomplishments and future of the free press. That’s the point, after all. “Our dinner honors the First Amendment and strong, independent journalism,” Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News said at the annual gala.
Before it became a star-studded occasion, the dinner was designed for presenting journalism awards and raising money for student scholarships. Worthy causes, right? And while it’s certainly possible to do those things with half of Hollywood in attendance (arguably a bonus, even, where the fundraising is concerned), maybe it’s not such a bad thing for stars to take a break occasionally. In doing so this year, the spotlight rested more squarely on the media — which is notably still trying to adjust to covering the current administration.
Examples of this year’s award winners include The New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman; CNN‘s Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper and Carl Bernstein; Politico/The Washington Post‘s Josh Dawsey; and Reuters‘ Grant Smith, Jason Szep, Lisa Girion, Peter Eisler and Tim Reid.
This year’s dinner still had some celebs in attendance, though: comedian Kathy Griffin, Baltimore Orioles icon Brooks Robinson, Comedy Central personality Jordan Klepper, actor and producer Tim Daly and Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti.