News & Politics

National Press Foundation Fetes Journalists

AP bureau chief Sandy Johnson led the evening.

What: The National Press Foundation's annual dinner

Where: The Washington Hilton

When: Thursday night, 6:30 p.m. to 10ish

Who: Some 1,000 Washington journalists, PR flacks, and corporate executives. The evening's 120-odd tables ranged from WETA and the Washington Post to Edison Electric, Ford, Cisco, Vanderbilt University, and the New Yorker, who were on hand.

Scene: The exception to the spring press dinner dinner ritual, the NPF's focus is just on journalism; there's no awkward comedic routine or politician roasting himself. The black tie dinner began relatively on time and the awards presentation take up most of the evening, with some short videos and always a heart-wrenching moment or two. Last year's dinner honored the journalists of the Gulf Coast for persevering in the face of Hurricane Katrina and this year's honored reporters who have sacrificed in Iraq, including those like The Atlantic's Michael Kelly, who have been killed in the war, those like CBS's Kimberly Dozier who have been injured, and those like Fox's Steve Centanni, who was kidnapped and released and seated at table 78 with executives from Centurian Risk Assessment Services, who donated some $30,000 in security training to the NPF for journalists heading to war zones.

Food: A spinach salad with candied walnuts, chipotle BBQ salmon, and a delicious trio of cheesecakes.

Drink of Choice: White wine, specifically Quincy Haute Victoire Bourgeois 2005.

Moving Moment of the Evening: Receiving the chairman's citation for the night was Michael Weisskopf, of Time Magazine, who, while covering Baghdad in December 2003, had a grenade thrown into his Humvee—he promptly threw it out, saving the lives of himself, Time's photographer, and the four soldiers in the vehicle, but losing his right hand when it exploded. He spoke only briefly, but his line, "I beat the bastards who would have it otherwise," left the crowd silent.

Best Line of the Evening: The Wall Street Journal's unmarried Brody Mullins, who won the Dirksen Award for best congressional coverage, joked that his parents had long been looking forward to this moment where their son, dressed in a tux and surrounded by well-wishers would be at the front of the room, but that they had expected that the scene would be in a church and that the person standing next to him wouldn't be Ben Bradlee. Mullins turned to the legendary Post editor and deadpanned, "Ben, I do."

Later in his remarks, Mullins had some tough words for the print industry, saying that to ensure their future print publication owners should be plowing more of their profits into in-depth thoughtful reporting that wasn't just the "commoditized" facts like who, what, where, and when, but the why and the how of stories.

Worst Oversight of the Evening: Dirksen Award winner Steve Henn forgot to thank his wife during his remarks, so when his co-winner William Kistner thanked his, a look of pure terror crossed Henn's face and he jumped forward to volunteer thanks to his wife as well to much laughter from the audience.  

Evening's Awardees:

Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism: Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman of the Hartford Courant.

Excellence in Online Journalism Award:

Clifford K. & James T. Berryman Award for Editorial Cartoonist: Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Everett McKinley Dirksen Awards for Distinguished Reporting of Congress: Brody Mullins, the Wall Street Journal and Steve Henn & William Kistner, American Public Media

Chairman's Citation: Michael Weisskopf, Time Magazine

Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism: Gwen Ifill, PBS

W. M. Kiplinger Distinguished Contributions to Journalism Award: The late Art Buchwald

The Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award: David Remnick, The New Yorker

Gift Bag: A handy messenger bag/briefcase emblazoned with the CQ and NPF logos, containing assorted publications (including the January "100 Very Best Restaurants" issue of the Washingtonian), and some trinkets, the best of which was a C-SPAN campaign 2008 luggage tag.

Bold Face Guests:
3.5 (out of 5)
4 (out of 5)
Food/Drinks: 3 (out of 5)
Overall Exclusivity:
4 (out of 5)

Total Score: 14.5 (out of 20)

More photos from the evening follow below.

The ballroom scene.
Unfortunately for Mullins, Sally Quinn beat him to the punch with Bradlee.