We believe in the First Amendment, which gives journalists and newspapers the right to publish without government interference. It also gives the broadest protection for those who want to criticize in harshest terms their government and its leaders.
We also believe comedian Michelle Wolf, who spoke caustically at the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner, had every right to speak her mind, and offer biting commentary, even if some found it offensive.
There is no constitutional guarantee to not be offended.
While some were outraged by her remarks, it's hard to love the First Amendment and simultaneously want her silenced. Criticism and outrage are the natural consequences of some free speech.
Instead, we believe any damage done by Wolf and other speakers' comments were self-inflicted wounds by the media. And, as much as we reject the notion of a monolithic, uniform media, we can't help but be disappointed that this one dinner may have played into President Donald J. Trump's unflattering and inaccurate view of the media and journalism.
The White House Correspondents' Association must bear part of the blame for inviting and appearing to endorse an antagonistic roasting of a president hell-bent to prove the media is just out to get him.
Trump's narrative, which riles up his base, includes near-daily attacks on the media for being fake, for engaging in witch hunts, for bias and for being unethical. The White House Correspondents, a group which has more contact with the president than any other group of journalists in the world, should know the catch-phrases thrown around by Trump and his corps of spokespeople. They, of all people, should be concerned that the erosion of trust and the de-legitimization of the media will undercut their own reporting. We would have thought the organization would have redoubled its efforts at staking out higher moral ground. Instead, it decided to risk its own reputation — and by extension, the media in general — and trade some yuks for integrity.
We realize that the association did not approve Wolf's comments beforehand. And, many of Wolf's comments were better suited for the highlight clips of Late Night television. However, by encouraging her appearance, the correspondents gave the dangerous perception of endorsement. Of course, that's an over-simplified view of the event, which historically has been a celebrity roast of the commander-in-chief, rather than stuffy formal dinner. The correspondents association no more endorsed her comments by inviting her than The Gazette endorses crime by running stories of criminals.
However, the perception of a bunch of top-notch journalists egging on a comedian to criticize in blunt terms the president feeds the perception of bias.
We continue to talk about the lack of civility in politics. We constantly report about partisanship leading to gridlock. Ad hominem attacks become ad nauseam. The media must hold itself to higher standards if it wants thwart accusations of bias and political witch hunting.
Sadly, this was not the case with this dinner, which has been an annual tradition, hearkening back to a too-cozy relationship that traded access to political power in exchange for ignoring things that should have been reported. Last weekend's dinner illustrates a real danger in journalism — that the media becomes too chummy, to casual, or too close to a situation that we lose credibility.
Since The Gazette is not a part of the White House Correspondents' Association, we cannot apologize because we had no part in it. We're disappointed that the event painted all journalists with the same brush. And while we enjoy jokes and snarkiness just as much as anyone, when it comes to covering politics and government, it's no laughing matter.