The White House Correspondents’ Association announced Wednesday that it has canceled its famous dinner for the second year in a row: “We have worked through any number of scenarios over the last several months,” the organization says, “but to put it plainly: while improving rapidly, the COVID-19 landscape is just not at a place where we could make the necessary decisions to go ahead with such a large indoor event.”
Instead, WHCA plans awards, scholarships, and smaller-scale events to tide over its members until next April, when it plans to hold the dinner anew.
The absence of the dinner was one of the few bright spots in the news business, which has been pummeled by the pandemic. As grim as things have been, at least journalists have been spared images of some of their peers dressing up in tuxedos and gowns to play nice with the people they’re paid to cover. The New York Times stopped attending “nerd prom” in 2007 (“too cozy for my taste,” as Executive Editor Dean Baquet described it) and Trump’s presidency gave a few outlets license to take a foot off the smarm pedal for a bit, but it seems unlikely that a two-year pause will stop this event from regenerating once the US reaches herd immunity.
Even before the pandemic, the last few years have been trying for fans of the dinner. My coworker Luke Mullins demonstrated in 2017 how its scholarship donations, ostensibly the raison d’être for this event, had stagnated. A spicy routine by Michelle Wolf in 2018 prompted WHCA to bring in historian Ron Chernow instead of a comedian the following year. Will an extra year off provide enough distance for journalists to reflect on the fact that elected officials and political appointees are not their friends? We’ll find out in 2022!