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For D.C. Insiders, Name of the Game is Getting the 'Get'
by Jules Witcover
In the highly competitive news business in this ultra-political town, a constant battle goes on among reporters to obtain interviews with the most knowledgeable governmental insiders from the
The acquisition of such targets is called a "get," as the word clearly conveys. The high-powered networks employ aggressive off-air staffers to identify, locate, cajole and besiege the brightest lights in the political firmament to appear on their "air" in the never-ending quest for the highest viewer ratings.
The competition is especially fierce among the Sunday morning television talk shows, on which other reporters and political junkies depend for their own version of a wake-up cup of coffee each new week. From the
For a long time, the
After years of playing second banana to "Meet," the
Today's Washington reporters themselves, print versions as well as TV luminaries, have become celebrities or at least wannabes. For the two most prominent annual journalists' dinners, the
When I was a reporter in the Washington bureau of the
A subsequent year, Mike, a crack reporter who was killed in 2003 on combat assignment in Iraq, corralled Donna Rice for the dinner, the blond bombshell who sat on the knee of Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart aboard the Monkey Business yacht. Hart thereafter found himself out of the running.
Since then the competition for scoring the most publicity-grabbing "gets" has turned the annual White House Correspondents' dinner into an East Coast version of the Academy Awards. Lavish and semi-exclusive post-dinner parties follow, thrown by lobbyists in swanky venues from private homes to former embassies.
The much more exclusive Gridiron dinner, limited to 65 club members of reporters and editors and their guests, requires all attendees to appear in formal white tie and tails, with club members present and past spoofing the leading lights of officialdom.
The White House Correspondents' bash merely dictates tuxedos and gowns, and is more of a brawl, with the chief entertainment some TV comic flavor of the month, and wholesale table-hopping and eyeballing of who's bagged who. The president is supposed to be the honored guest at both affairs, but sometimes he sends a stand-in. These days there are plenty of other attractions for the invited oglers.
Just as life imitates art, the Washington political social world has come to imitate Hollywood. It offers a combination of political and entertainment celebrity "gets" to acquire what passes these days for status for the town where running the country is supposed to be the principal occupation.
In one sense, it's all harmless fun. Which can't said about the partisan squabbling that continues to dominate a community that features its own political entertainers of both parties, in a running competition to "get" the national spotlight for their personal aggrandizement.
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