Controversy Roils White House Correspondents Dinner

Many of the regular White House news correspondents have been squeezed out of the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

The annual gala has become a media spectacular, with TV coverage heavily focused on the tables hosted by large press and broadcasting organizations to which a variety of Hollywood and television stars have been invited as guests.

In this process, several working White House reporters have been unable almost to buy tickets even for themselves. Ivan Scott, senior Washington correspondent for KNX Radio in Los Angeles and WTOP in Washington, D.C., has voiced the complaints of these correspondents in this letter to the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association:

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April 14, 2005

Ron Hutcheson
President
White House Correspondents’ Association
1920 N St. NW #300
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Ron,

The invitation policy for our annual dinner needs to be changed.

The current policy is unfair in the allocation of tickets and tables.

My wife, Sarah (a Regular member) and I wanted to invite our respective bosses from California to attend this year’s dinner. We contacted the Association early and were told we could not purchase a table, nor could we even buy one additional ticket each. The reason: the dinner was sold out.

We were also told it was not even certain we could come because there wasn’t room for many of the members who wanted to attend.

In the invitation letter mailed out by the WHCA it stated “all members are eligible to purchase seats.” It also said “organizations with regular members are limited to eight tables. Organizations with associate members are limited to three tables.”

Why couldn’t Sarah and I get a table?

Why was it uncertain for more than two weeks that we could even come at all? (Our check for ourselves and two guests was deposited by the Association before we were notified that only Sarah and I could attend, not our guests.)

Why should any dues-paying member be excluded?

The WHCA was formed to represent Correspondents, not Hollywood stars.

In today’s Washington Post (Style Section) John McLaughlin’s six celebrity guests were named. When was the last time, if ever, that John McLaughlin attended a White House briefing or gaggle? Has anyone ever seen him covering White House news at the White House? Not I. Why was he allowed to bring at least six guests when Sarah and I couldn’t even bring one?

The dinner policy should be changed so that every member of the WHCA, regardless of membership category, would be able to attend the dinner, if they so desire. Since most of us have people we work for, every member should be able to bring at least one guest.

If that means some organizations get less than eight or three tables, so be it.

It’s fine to invite celebrity guests, but not to the exclusion of the members.

Would you please give a copy of this letter to your successor, and to the other members of the board, and ask that the suggested changes be made before next year’s dinner?

Many thanks.

Sincerely,

Ivan Scott
Associate member # 081


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