Big opportunities at White House dinner

The White House


KAI RYSSDAL: Mother's Day is Sunday. But in the nation's capital there's going to be another rite of spring this weekend. The White House Correspondents' Dinner Saturday night. Never mind that the economy's still sour and the newspaper industry, in particular, is in free fall. This year's dinner is going to be bigger than ever. And as Marketplace's Steve Henn reports from Washington, it's a chance to do a little business, too.

Steve Henn: Bob Garfield writes for Ad Age and hosts NPR's On the Media. He's a huge fan of the White House correspondents dinner.

Bob Garfield: It's really one of the most grotesque spectacles in the Washington calendar.

OK, so he's not a fan.

Garfield: Look, it's a social event that is all about showing off who you know and having that one night in your year where you are not just some sort of Washington journo-wonk.

And it's not just the dinner. Major media companies compete to throw lavish after-parties and for the most over-the-top guest lists. Entertainers like Ludacris, Ben Affleck and the entire cast of Gossip Girl mingle with wonks and powerbrokers. Getting in is a big deal.

Steve Scully: You know, it's like tickets to a Yankees game.

During the playoffs. Steve Scully sits on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association. He says a ticket can be a great way to thank advertisers you really don't want to lose, especially now.

Scully: So news organizations have to make the judgment call: Who does it benefit me to invite?

Newsweek invited the CEO of AstraZeneca. He dropped $7 million on ads in the magazine last year. But tomorrow night he'll not only get the chance to mingle with celebrities like Natalie Portman. He'll also get an opportunity to bend the ear of cabinet secretaries like Tim Geithner and Attorney General Eric Holder. And in Washington that kind of access is priceless.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.


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