From White House Briefing:
The night’s biggest prize for defensiveness, however, went to the White House Correspondents Association’s president, Steve Scully of C-Span. “I’d like for just a moment to talk . . . about this dinner, because it has received its fair share of criticism [from] those who question whether reporters and their sources should dine together at a night like this,” Scully said. “Now our job is to question policies and look at events with a skeptical eye. And I have to tell you that one dinner will not change that. . . .
“So let today be an example of what is good about our democracy and our First Amendment. Let us be reminded that an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy, nor does an evening of civility mean we are selling out.”
But from what I see, the critics of the dinner are not saying Washington journalists should hate their sources — just hold their sources accountable. I’m quite sure the dinner would be forgiven if the media was seen to be doing its job the rest of the time.
A leading concern appears to be that in the Bush era, where spin and message control and confabulation have been taken to unprecedented new heights, the old rules aren’t serving journalism or the public as well as they once did. Where once a general coziness with sources gained journalists valuable information they could impart to the public, now it is more likely to win them little more than a returned phone call full of obfuscation.
That’s why the dinner rubs so many people the wrong way. It is increasingly widely seen as the celebration of a con — by the conned.
For his part, Steve Scully says:
“If people want to criticize the dinner, then don’t come,” he added. “But for those people who come, they have a good time.” He said the expanding blogosphere likely had something to do with the increased scrutiny. “I think the blogs are driving it,” he said. “That is good, they have a point of view and it is probably better to have people look at this with a critical eye. As long as everybody knows what it is about, it is an enjoyable night.”