Lights, camera, journalism

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After nearly two years of the pandemic, the world is finally making an effort to return to normal. All eyes were on the Washington Hilton as journalists and media correspondents alike met Saturday, April 30 at the annual White House Correspondents dinner. Despite concerns that the large gathering would spark a COVID-19 outbreak, the dinner happened as scheduled; although, everyone invited was required to be vaccinated and take a same-day coronavirus test. 

The dinner, which began in 1921, honors distinguished print and broadcast journalists for their coverage of the White House and the president. Typically, the president and vice president are both in attendance; however, this year, Vice President Kamala Harris was unable to attend due to testing positive for the coronavirus.

Among the star-studded list that did attend was Hollywood’s current “it” couple: TV personality Kim Kardashian and comedian Pete Davidson. The couple made their red carpet debut accompanied by an entourage of security and even a personal photographer, sparking near-riots among excited fans. Their appearance symbolizes how interconnected popular culture and social media are with today’s world of journalism. 

Steve Portnoy, the president of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) kicked off the night with a small speech emphasizing the responsibility journalists have to society. “Our democracy depends on journalists shining light and truth upon darkness and lies, and bringing accountability to officials at every level of our government,” he stated.

The WHCA then proceeded to recognize 31 college undergraduates who are beginning their careers in journalism. These standout students demonstrated exemplary performances in their respective college publications and are leading the next generation of journalists. This link contains a full list of scholarship winners. 

Comedian and host Trevor Noah followed with a comedy sketch that had the crowd chuckling within seconds. Aside from its entertaining purpose, it served as an introduction for President Joe Biden who took the stage to share his own sentiments with the crowd — and to completely roast them. No one was safe from the president’s jokes as he quipped about everything and everyone from Fox News and their controversial viewpoints to his own low approval ratings.

Later that night came the awards ceremony which began with the presentation of the newly instated Dunnigan-Payne Prize, named in honor of Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne, the first African American women to become White House correspondents. Fittingly, the two late journalists were the first to receive the award, and it was accepted by their respective families. 

This was followed by the introduction of Debra Tice, the mother of freelance journalist Austin Tice who was kidnapped by Syrian forces nine years ago; this tribute served as a reminder to all watching of the true courage journalists display on a daily basis. Throughout the night, various speakers, comedians and even President Biden himself commended this bravery and applauded the journalists covering the current Ukrainian crisis. “We’re out here. We’re just enjoying a party… and people are dying reporting on Ukraine. We have to remember that, at the end of the day, we’re here to defend the First Amendment…We’re the first responders for this [crisis]” stated American television personality Desus Nice. 

Intrinsically, journalism is about people – educating, influencing and impacting them. Whether it be through television or print, journalists provide citizens with the information they need to come to their own conclusions and opinions about society. And, in a time of uncertainty and political unrest, the correspondents dinner reminded us how much we really depend on them.

President Gerald R. Ford, the 38th president of the United States, shakes hands with White House correspondent Helen Thomas at the 61st annual White House Correspondents Dinner. (Photo/Picryl)

Irene is a sophomore at American Heritage who is entering her first year as a staff member for the Patriot Post. She loves reading (practically anything she can manage to get her hands on), watching movies, volunteering and listening to music. Her passion for writing started early at the age of 8 and she has been involved in both creative writing and journalism since then. Other than being in newspaper she is involved in a lot of different clubs at Heritage such as Best Buddies, Key Club, HOSA, UNICEF, Amnesty International and more.

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