The White House Correspondents’ Dinner: A Postscript

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner: A Postscript

In Washington, D.C. this weekend for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, I have three experiences to share with you, each of which has been changed by the news of the success of the daring plan to bring down Osama bin Laden.

1. Friday night we met a staff member with a job that puts him in the Situation Room whenever major action is taking place. He was cool, calm, and professional, and never once looked distracted or in any way indicated that it was anything other than a normal weekend around the White House.

He also said something that will stay with me forever. He had been hired for his job under the Bush administration and had clearly survived to work in the Obama White House. When we asked about this, he replied: “I am not political — I don’t align with Republicans or Democrats; I am a patriot. I am here to serve my country.”

2. While the take-away in the news that was reported after the Correspondents’ Dinner seemed to be about how Trump had felt about the barbed comments directed at him, one wise editor noted: “President Obama was addressing the room. It’s the media that gives so much extra oxygen to these inconsequential stories.” While I have not received the email myself, someone described to me the cartoon that is being sent around the Internet where Obama indicates that he hadn’t released his long-form birth certificate earlier because he had more important things to do, like catching Osama bin Laden. Let that be a lesson to the media — and to the public. We need to demand that reporters use shoe leather research methods on issues affecting the economy, energy development, and how we are going to repair or replace our aging infrastructure. Let Donald Trump be in a room alone to discuss his concern about President Obama’s birth or his skepticism about the president’s academic record.

3. After a correspondents-related event at the wonderful relatively new Newseum (the museum was completed in 2007 and is filled with a fascinating and well-thought-out series of exhibits about news coverage and its history), we had time to explore for awhile. I find 9/11 exhibits very painful, but the Newseum exhibit is compelling; and even more so in light of this week’s news. The Newseum 9/11 Gallery notes that seven news employees died in the attack on the World Trade Center; six were broadcast technicians who were at their posts atop the World Trade Center.

The seventh victim was photojournalist William Biggart, who was nearby when the first tower went down and kept snapping photos on his way to get closer to the story. He died when the second tower came down. For four days his family had no idea what happened to him, but eventually, his camera and gear were located and were returned to his wife. Part of the exhibit is a continuously running short film about Biggart, Running Toward Danger. It includes an interview with his wife about her trepidation about seeing the last photos taken by her husband before he died. The film also shows those last photos. The recent news has made this story even more moving, and my visit to the Newseum one I won’t soon forget.

This week we turn a page in our American story; let’s all do our part to help keep our country — and the news coverage — on the high road.

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