Poynter’s James Warren (a former Chicago Tribune managing editor) has turned to the next press horror under President Trump: “What will the White House correspondents’ dinner look like under President Trump?” Warren admitted “It seems way off — April 29, 2017 — but the election of Donald Trump is already raising questions and some fears among [White House Correspondents] association members.”
"This is unchartered [sic] territory," said a former WHCA board member who's discussed the matter with board members. "We've never had a businessman-reality TV star as president, somebody who understands the importance of this particular event."
That sounds a little odd, considering Obama and Bill Clinton understood this was an event where they could easily own the room. See the media adoration of Obama’s mic-drop routine earlier this year.
Liberal journalists now associate the dinner with journalists being too cozy with the power elite, and conservatives associate it with leftist comedians offering either a cauldron of acid for Republicans (Stephen Colbert trolling Bush) or a cauldron of acid for Republicans (Wanda Sykes sparing Obama).
Both these groups of critics would just call the whole thing off. Warren turned to the media to wonder about the future:
"Will this guy who sat here and took it in not altogether gracious fashion from President Obama sit there and take it as president of the United States while a comedian who is hired does what comedians normally do? Can he take it?" asks Bill Plante, just-retired CBS News White House correspondent and a former association president.
"And can he do (at the dinner) what presidents do, make fun of himself?"
Plante asked exactly the wrong question. Trump came to the dinner and took his lumps from Obama and NBC's Seth Meyers in 2011. The better question is can the media take the ridicule? Can the media make fun of itself? The last year suggests they think any criticism is tantamount to Soviet authoritarianism. Warren’s story continued:
“It certainly has the potential to be a train wreck, and it’s possible that the Trump team would see that as a good thing," says Tom Goodman, president and chief executive of Goodman Media who was once head of communications at CBS News and CBS Inc.
"Regardless, I believe Donald Trump would absolutely show up and use the event to lambast the media, which would play into his ongoing narrative. I think the biggest difference between the current and next president (at this event) is that Barack Obama would be joking about the media, and Donald Trump would not — and he would name names, too."
That makes it sound like Republicans might really enjoy this dinner for a change.