As expected, Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” did a fantastic job presiding over last Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. True to form, Noah didn’t hold back, delivering some clever comedy that poked fun at everyone - both on the right and left. No one, including President Biden, was spared.
What’s notable is that it’s been a long time since the WHCA event was attended by the President. Six years to be exact. And while it provided a great platform to lighten the mood and share some laughs, it was the message on the role that a free press plays in a civil society that Noah spoke to that stood out.
His speech also reminded us of the important role our university and corporate clients have in helping national and local media find and connect with credible experts for their stories.
Here are some highlights of the speech:
Noah reminded us just how fortunate we are to live in a society where the media plays a critical role in our democracy.
“So as we sit in this room tonight, I really hope we all remember what the real purpose of this evening is. Yes, it’s fun. Yes, we dress nice. Yes, the people eat, they drink, and have fun. But the reason we are here is to honor and celebrate the Fourth Estate and what you stand for — an additional check and balance that holds power to account. And gives voice to those who otherwise wouldn’t have one."
Noah went on to focus on the importance of local media:
"I’m not just talking about CNN or Fox or any of the other major organizations. I’m talking about everyone.” “Every single one of you, whether you like it or not, is a bastion of democracy,”
Then, Noah went on to underscore the importance of a free press by addressing the Ukrainian invasion and the way Russia has violently suppressed its media outlets and free speech. Noah said:
“If you ever begin to doubt your responsibilities — how meaningful it is — look no further than what’s happening in Ukraine. Journalists are risking and even losing their lives to show the world what’s really happening. In America, you have the right to seek the truth and speak the truth even if it makes people in power uncomfortable. Even if it makes your viewers or your readers uncomfortable. You understand how amazing that is? I stood here tonight and I made fun of the president of the United States and I’m going to be fine. Do you really understand what a blessing it is? Maybe it’s happened for so long, it might slip your mind. It’s a blessing.”
Noah then reminded us that we all have responsibilities by asking everyone in the room this important question:
“Ask yourself this question. If Russian journalists who are losing their livelihoods and their freedom for daring to report on what their own government is doing — if they had the freedom to write any words, to show any stories, or to ask any questions, if they had basically what you have, would they be using it in the same that you do? Ask yourself that question every day because you have one of the most important roles in the world.”
It was a very fitting end to an event that has in a lighthearted way since 1920 allowed us to laugh at our differences and come together across the aisle. I hope as you begin your week, you will remember that while the news is a business, our role in educating the public, countering mis/disinformation and speaking truth to power is something we can’t take for granted. President Biden in his WHCD remarks said it best:
“I mean this from the bottom of my heart, that you, the free press, matter more than you ever did in the last century,” he said. “You are the guardians of the truth.”
A link to the full broadcast of Trevor Noah’s remarks at the 2022 White House Correspondents Association is here: