Let’s all plunge ourselves face first into the toilet and put our hands together for “Jacob Riis, Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell Present: John Pierpont Morgan’s Nite of Laffs 2015.” — Jeb Lund, liveblogging for the Guardian
Now that all the frantic primping and lavish self-congratulation is over, here’s Jay Rosen “On the deep grammar of the White House Correspondents Association Dinner“:
Have you ever come to know members of a family who collaborate in staying silent about something bad that happened in the past, something no one wants to talk about because to talk about it would probably tear the family apart?…
The Washington press corps is like that big extended family with a terrible secret that cannot be confronted because everyone knows how bad it would be if the discussion ever got real. The event at the center of this neurotic system: the failure to detect a phony case for war in 2002 and 2003 and more generally to challenge the Bush forces after 9/11. And this wasn’t just any failure. For a press that imagines itself a watchdog, failing to detect a faulty case for war, then watching the war unfold into the biggest foreign policy disaster in memory… that is an event so huge and deflating that it amounts to an identity crisis.
Now add to that very specific failure a larger lesson that is also too painful to face: in Washington access journalism has been a bust. It doesn’t work… After a maximal failure like 2002-04 there needed to be a critical reckoning with the whole idea of “access to inside sources as reliable route to scoops.” You can’t maintain that idea and think of yourself as a watchdog, an adversarial force.
But what if you still want both? Your scoop system, and your self-image as a watchdog. Your insider status, and the critical distance that with the right story could make you a hero of the republic. What if you want your parties with the powerful, and your check on power. What if you have to choose between these alternatives, but you can’t choose because the family has no history of making difficult choices like that. In circumstances like this, you are going to pick denial…
The Washington press corps needed the equivalent of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to sort through these glaringly obvious conflicts. Instead they just moved on. No one made that decision consciously. But it happened….
Apart from SODH (shaking our damed heads), what’s on the agenda for the evening?
(Title changed by popular request)