In an age when newspapers are dying, good journalism is more rare than sightings of Yeti and millions of Americans base their political opinions on misinformation from jugglers and clowns, is it too much to ask for just a gesture of maturity on the part of Washington reporters?
End the high school musical fiasco called the White House Correspondents' Dinner. It could be the first step toward establishing a professional relationship between Washington journalists and Washington politicians. A respectfully adversarial relationship. One that would benefit not just consumers of news, but reporters of it and sources of it.
I don't expect this to happen overnight. The cozy, inside baseball, old school tie climate of Washington journalism has been evolving too long, is too deeply entrenched on both sides for instant reform.
But getting rid of the infantile correspondents' dinner would at least be a signal of better intentions. One of the great benefits of retirement from the newspaper business is not having reason to attend the silly things any more. They're boring, insipid, the food is mediocre and they demean newsmen who allow themselves to be stuffed into white tie and tails just to rub elbows with the highest and mightiest of people they're supposed to cover.
The thing should have ended several years ago, when Bush II sank to making a silly skit out of the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Rather than walking out, as they should have, the so-called newsmen actually laughed at this. Here was the President of the United States, the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, making a joke out of the lie with which he bamboozled Congress and the public into supporting a war that is still going on; that has cost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. Here were the men and women who are supposed to report the truth about our government, chuckling along with good ol' Dubyuh at the bloodiest sick inside joke of all time.
From what I hear, nothing quite as obscene happened at the 2010 White House Correspondents' Association dinner last week. Someone told me Jay Leno was a dud; that Obama dutifully poked lame fun at himself and the opposition; that Biden was the butt of lots of jokes about his talent for putting his foot in his mouth. High school pep-rally humor of the sort that would be cause for instant dismissal of a writer for the Stewart or Colbert shows.
How many examples must we have of supposed "news" reporters allowing themselves to be used as puppets of the politicians in power before some responsible editor or publisher declares, "Enough." He or she could immediately demonstrate bona fides by refusing to allow his or her journalists to participate in the anachronism of the correspondents' dinner.
No more puerile song parodies. No more wink-wink insider jokes. No more stenography. Just serious, hard questioning, slogging, dig for the truth, detached reporting of what our government is up to. It used to be called journalism.
It isn't done by sharing Gratinee de Coquilles St. Jacques and Domaine Gouron Chinon with Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and the rest of Barry's Bosom Buds at a fancy dinner while millions of Americans are still jobless and Washington has not taken a single action in nearly a decade to really fix what's wrong in this country.
The fat cats scarfing canapes last week don't even seem to realize that anything's wrong.