Tom Brokaw: The White House Correspondents' Dinner is contributing to public distrust of the media

Via Mediaite, I’m second to none in my contempt for this freak show but it’s bugging me that Brokaw’s indictment has been so well received. Does anyone really believe that the vast majority of the public even knows what the WHCD is, let alone has some strong ethical objection to it? In a way, his assumption about the public significance of the event reflects the same sort of Beltway myopia that he’s criticizing. This goes back to my post last week about how political junkies, by obsessing over every dumb poll and media distraction, are actually way out of touch with the sort of casual voter who’ll end up deciding the election. Those people probably don’t pay much attention until around September; meanwhile, you and I live or die every day with each new bit of news detritus that floats by. Sometimes I think the best way to blog politically would be to spend half an hour a day following the news and then give your gut reaction to whatever it is you stumbled across in that time. That’s probably a better insight into the mind of a swing voter than microanalyzing the latest campaign nontroversy. If anything, given the public appetite for gossip and celebrity crapola, the fact that the press spends one night a year hanging out with George Clooney probably increases the public’s esteem for them on balance.

In fairness to Brokaw, arguably he’s making a more subtle point — not that the public is reacting negatively to the WHCD but rather that the press itself is more apt to cocoon itself in Beltway culture because of sleazy networking and stargazing opportunities like the WHCD. If I thought getting rid of their prom would help peel away that cocoon, I’d take his side. But I don’t. The media is an industry and it’ll have its own industry culture whether or not everyone puts on tuxes one night a year and gladhands the Real Housewives of D.C. or whoever semi-ironically on the red carpet. Pauline Kael once said she didn’t understand how Nixon had won since no one she knew had voted for him. I don’t think nerdprom was her problem.

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