A premier of a very unusual documentary was held on April 9 at the E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C. It is called "Nerd Prom-the Movie" and is a detailed documentary of the behind-the-scenes hoopla surrounding the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, which has now grown to a week of over 40 parties and events in late April or May. Nearly 3,000 attend the dinner, which has been nicknamed "The Nerd Prom." It is held in the Washington Hilton, and it attracts many more journalists, guests, and Hollywood types than can actually get into the dinner itself. Tourists try to line the hallways and driveways, and gawk at those prancing down the red carpet. Seriously, there is a red carpet! And these are supposed to be serious, hardworking journalists whom the WHCA members are in real life.
The documentary was created, written, and filmed by Patrick Gavin. He is a fine journalist, who quit his job at Politico to make this documentary. Most of it was filmed during the 2014 festivities. There are interviews with many in the White House -- some of whom were in the audience Thursday night. More might have been there, but White House correspondents from the wealthier press organizations were traveling the Caribbean with President Obama.
The film exposes the big business of the week, and details how much money the parties bring in to those who profit from the guests and the products which are promoted. I do not think that is a bad thing. Patrick concludes the Dinner has strayed far from its original concept, and that is true. But he also points out there is a stated purpose of raising scholarship money for young journalism students and a theme of achieving more access to the President and top Administration officials. One of the most amusing parts of the film is the fact few people recognize the majority of the White House correspondents! Most of us toil unnoticed in the cramped quarters of the White House.
On a personal note, I am proud and grateful to be there, as I have been since 1968. This probably makes me the longest serving White House correspondent, at this time. I have probably attended at least 40 White House dinners. There are numerous functions in Washington, including those sponsored by the Congress, embassies, charity fundraisers, and others. That is the business of Washington. I think many of them are good. I do not believe there is harm in getting close to sources and officials. I broke some of the biggest stories of my long career by talking to influential people at social events. These included stories which had to do with Watergate, wars, sex scandals, and other events.
Many people are working hard to make the dinner a more serious event. Arianna Huffington is inviting Internet journalists and scientists to her tables. Christi Parsons, president of the White House Correspondents Association, encourages guests to include more fellow journalists and fewer "starlets" to the dinner. They are still welcome to the other parties in town, if they can get invitations. Christi is also fighting hard for more journalism access in general and lower costs for expensive travel with the president.
So, in short, I recommend you view "Nerd Prom - the Movie" any way you can get it -- on the Internet or in theaters, if it is shown. But don't hate us because of the parties. We really do work hard in a tough business which is going through hard times!