Student Reporters From "The Maroon Tiger" Among Guests At White House Correspondents' Dinner

Date Released: May 2, 2017

By Jonell Brown

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was held Saturday at the Hilton International Ballroom in Washington, D.C., without the presence of a usual VIP guest – the current president of the United States.

President Donald Trump avoided the annual night celebrating the tireless work of the nation’s top Washington, D.C., government reporters. President Trump chose to spend his 100th day on the job at a Republican rally in Harrisburg, Pa., instead.

Three reporters from The Maroon Tiger attended the dinnerCNN, The Associated Press, Yahoo News and the Huffington Post also had representatives at the dinner.

“I enjoyed my time there,” said Ayron Lewallen, a junior sociology major from Kansas. The student interviewed President Obama adviser and CNN contributor Van Jones on the red carpet before the dinner.

“I was able to conduct interviews with some of the most heavy-hitting African American journalists and political figures in our country," Lewallen said. "I was in the presence of thousands of great journalists that I have been watching for years now. To be given that experience, was humbling and inspiring. It let me know that there is a place for an aspiring journalist like me, who also happens to be a black male.”

As political reporters filed up to the podium, they voiced support for the freedoms of the First Amendment and said that the rights of the free press are being challenged like never before by the Trump administration.

One of the highlights of the night was seeing CNN Correspondent Don Lemon scroll through his phone to show his playlists, which included Kendrick Lamar’s most recent album. Seeing that one of his fellow journalists, Tamron Hall, was texting him about the happenings of the evening showcased Lemon’s close ties with other black and brown journalists.

The tough crowd applauded for David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post for his coverage of the 2016 campaign and his investigation into Trump’s finances. Decades ago, the same praise was due for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the grandfathers of journalism.

Woodward and Bernstein committed themselves to unveil the secrecy of the Nixon administration and uncovered the Watergate scandal. Conducting 17 interviews with the White House lawyer made these journalists realize that one does not know what a good story is until the reporting is done. Their goal was to find the “best obtainable version” of the truth.

Woodward said he supports the work of today's watchdog journalists who keep an eye on government waste, spending, manuevering, and malfeasance.

Woodward said: “The effort today to get this best obtainable version of the truth is largely made in good faith. Mr. President, the media is not ‘fake news.’”

The dinner was a learning experience for young journalists excited by the political landscape of Washington, D.C.

“Trump is the president; I have to cover him,” said Catherine Hofacker, a White House Correspondents’ Association scholarship winner from Fremont, Ohio. Hofacker added that she would always be fair in her reporting on Trump. “My opinion doesn’t matter.”

The White House Correspondents’ Association works everyday to advocate for journalists. The association prides itself on maintaining a presence in the White House and on Air Force One.

The association gives aspiring journalists the opportunity to work with experts in the field. There were 23 student journalists from eight universities who were given the chance to work with a mentor from the White House press corps.

“I am gratified to see so many people here to show off the reporter/source relationship,” Sonya Ross of the Associated Press said. “It is nice to see people care about raising money to send people to college.”

Jeff Mason, president of the WHCA, gave a “shout out” to the student journalists from Pittsburg High School in Kansas. The young journalists launched an investigation against a school official and got her removed from job.

“This generation is in a position to turn media into whatever they want it to be,” Ross said.

On a lighter note, entertainer Hasan Minhaj jokingly bragged about being the ninth Muslim in a row to attend the dinner after eight years of Obama. He also pledged his support for a free press.

“From college campuses to the White House, the president is not beyond the reach of the First Amendment,” Minhaj said.

To end the night perfectly, there was some advice for budding journalists: Be the best in the world at what you do. Always keep in mind that credibility, accuracy, authenticity, and a better spin on the story will take a journalist a long way.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Last Modified: June 8, 2017, 13:06 PM, by: Synera Shelton

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