Mr. Baquet said that executive editor Bill Keller has been no fan of the correspondents’ dinner. Bill said, when I got here, that he’d be interested in seeing what I thought of it.”
“I’d say our distaste for these events has been cumulative,” wrote executive editor Bill Keller in an e-mail to The Observer. “There was no one thing. Or maybe everybody has his or her own cringe-making moment. For me personally, the tipping point may have been watching Karl Rove on YouTube, doing a rap routine with reporters at the TV correspondents’ dinner.”
Two days after the April 21 dinner, Mr. Baquet e-mailed Mr. Keller to endorse the idea of no longer going.
This is not the first swearing-off of the dinner by The Times. In 1999, Michael Oreskes, then the bureau chief, pulled out of the event.
“The dinner was an embarrassment then and has grown only worse since,” wrote Mr. Oreskes, now executive editor of the International Herald Tribune, via e-mail.
After Mr. Oreskes left the bureau in Dec. 2000 and was replaced by Jill Abramson, The Times got out the tuxedos and party gowns again. Ms. Abramson, now a managing editor, didn’t respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment.
“I have never thought it proper or wise for journalists to participate in our own ritual humiliation,” Mr. Oreskes wrote. “I am proud of The New York Times for saying, ‘No more.’ I can’t give advice to other publications. But it is crucial for every journalist to be looking for ways to strengthen our credibility. We should all concentrate on building the trust of our audiences and then try bowling on Saturday nights.”
Retired Timesman Adam Clymer, who was Washington editor under Mr. Oreskes, said he hopes the reform movement doesn’t go too far. Mr. Clymer endorsed the idea of getting out of the correspondents’ dinner—“Mike and I were so repelled by the spectacle of Paula Jones as a guest”—but now helps run the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner.
“It’s great as a spectacle,” said Peter Baker, the White House correspondent for The Washington Post. “Go, don’t go—who cares? I have more of a problem with government institutions holding briefings with 40 reporters on background. That’s what we should take a stand on. I don’t think anybody is compromised by having a drink with a source and listening to bad comedy. All the Sturm und Drang over the dinners is a waste of time.”
“Our dinner funds a foundation that provides scholarships, that provides books for schools in the District of Columbia,” Mr. Clymer said of his event. “I’d be unhappy if The Times didn’t come.”