WHCA announces acclaimed author Ron Chernow as featured speaker for 2019 dinner

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) is pleased to announce that Ron Chernow, one of the most eminent biographers of American presidents and statesmen, will be the featured speaker at its annual dinner on Saturday, April 27, 2019.

“I’m delighted that Ron will share his lively, deeply researched perspectives on American politics and history at the 2019 White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” said Olivier Knox, Chief Washington Correspondent for SiriusXM and president of the WHCA. “As we celebrate the importance of a free and independent news media to the health of the republic, I look forward to hearing Ron place this unusual moment in the context of American history.”

“The White House Correspondents’ Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige,” Chernow said. “Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics. My major worry these days is that we Americans will forget who we are as a people and historians should serve as our chief custodians in preserving that rich storehouse of memory. While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”

After widely acclaimed biographies of business tycoons J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller — the Morgan book won the National Book Award for Nonfiction — Chernow turned to the Founding Fathers and American presidents.

His biography of Alexander Hamilton in 2004 was the first recipient of the George Washington Book Prize for the year’s best book about the founding era. Chernow served as historical consultant as playwright and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda turned that book into a Broadway phenomenon. The two jointly received the History Makers Award of the New York Historical Society for their work.

His masterful biography of the nation’s first president, Washington: A Life, was published to broad acclaim in 2010, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. “The best, most comprehensive, and most balanced single-volume biography of Washington ever written,” said Gordon Wood in The New York Review of Books. Chernow was a recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal, conferred at the White House.

His latest book, Grant, on the 18th president, was published in 2017 and spent four months on the bestseller list. The New York Times named it one of the ten best books of the year. The Lincoln Journal Star of Nebraska said the book “cements Chernow’s reputation as America’s preeminent historic biographer.” A movie is planned, directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, with Chernow as the historical adviser.

The author has received eight honorary doctorates. And, he has been featured three times in the New York Times crossword puzzle and once on Jeopardy.

The first draft of the first draft of history

The White House Correspondents’ Association and the University of Maryland are pleased to announce the creation of a unique new window into the world of the president and the press — a permanent and ongoing digital, searchable archive of presidential pool reports produced by White House correspondents.


The White House Correspondents’ Association Pool Reports Collection will be kept at the university and available online. It will consist of the reports written every day by members of the White House press corps on the activities of the president.


“This collection will be of invaluable help to scholars far and wide. A grand slam idea,” said Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and CNN presidential historian.


The presidential pool reports are produced by journalists who are part of a small group that covers the president — in the White House, at events, in the motorcade and on Air Force One — when it is not possible for the entire press corps to be present. Their written pool reports are disseminated to the rest of the press corps, once on paper, now digitally.


“The WHCA release of pool reports provides a valuable window into presidential history,” said Robert Dallek, a presidential historian and biographer. “These are the kind of contemporary materials that are treasured by historians.”


“This collection of pool reports will be an essential tool to historians of modern American politics,” said Julian E. Zelizer, the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Zelizer is also a CNN political analyst and co-host of “Politics and Polls.”


“It will also provide an important, archivally based window into relationship between the presidents and the press, a subject that is gaining more attention in recent years,” he said.


The collection will be produced through a partnership including the WHCA, the University of Maryland — including the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, the University Libraries and the College of Information Studies — and the Newseum Institute.


“WHCA is proud to launch this historically significant project with our host, the University of Maryland,” said Margaret Talev, the president of the association and Senior White House Correspondent for Bloomberg. “We thank the many journalists, historians and academics at institutions throughout the country for their input in furnishing the raw work and the vision for how this resource can serve the public. It’s a massive undertaking and we welcome support from organizations and individuals that would like to get involved.”


The WHCA sought to create the collection as part of its mission to ensure a strong free press and robust coverage of the presidency. At the same time, the partnership will develop educational and scholarly programs and publications based on the collection and presidential access and coverage.


“The University of Maryland is honored to have the opportunity to steward this valuable archive and research tool, a unique record of the U.S. presidency,” said Lucy A. Dalglish, dean of the Merrill College. “We’re proud to make it available to the public and to scholars around the world.”


The collection will complement materials at the University of Maryland Libraries that document the history of radio and television broadcasting, including the Library of American Broadcasting and the National Public Broadcasting Archives.


“Archiving information and making it publicly available is not only essential to accessibility and transparency in current times, but also to the accuracy of how events are remembered in the future,” said Keith Marzullo, dean of the College of Information Studies.


Dalglish said a kickoff event is scheduled for Oct. 9 at the Newseum, where guests — including current and former White House correspondents — will be invited to celebrate the collection and share old pool reports in their possession, “whether they’re stored digitally or in boxes in basements.”


Work will begin this year and the archive is expected to be stood up over the next two years.


Gene Policinski, president and chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, said the Newseum is honored to partner in preserving the reports.


“Journalism is known as a ‘first draft of history,’” Policinski said. “This WHCA material is literally the first drafts of such first drafts.”


About the WHCA:

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) represents the hundreds of journalists who cover the White House. Its mission is to ensure a strong free press and robust coverage of the presidency by advocating for access to the president, White House events and administration officials. We also work to encourage new generations of White House correspondents through our college scholarship program.

About the University of Maryland:


The University of Maryland, College Park is the state’s flagship university and one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. Its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 60 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit http://www.umd.edu/.

About the Newseum Institute:

The Newseum Institute, headquartered in Washington, is the education and outreach partner of the Freedom Forum and the Newseum. The Institute includes the First Amendment Center, the Religious Freedom Center and NewseumED, an online learning platform for teachers and students. The Institute regularly hosts compelling programs that engage in the central debates of our time, including the role of a free press in a democracy, ongoing threats to journalists, and the significance of religious freedom in a pluralistic society.


April 5 2018