The Gridiron Club and Foundation, founded in 1885, is the oldest and one of the most prestigious journalistic organizations in Washington, D.C. Its 65 active members represent major newspapers, news services, news magazines and broadcast networks. Membership is by invitation only and has traditionally been offered almost exclusively to Washington newspaper bureau chiefs. Recently, however, it has begun opening its doors to such non-newspaper media figures as Tim Russert of NBC News, Bob Schieffer of CBS News, Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, and Judy Woodruff of PBS.
In 2008, the club merged with its charitable arm, the Gridiron Foundation, to form the Gridiron Club and Foundation. It is a 501 (c)(3) organization and makes annual charitable contributions and provides scholarships to a number of journalistic organizations and colleges, including the University of Maryland, George Washington University and Norwich College.
The presidency of the club rotates annually. In 2013, it was held by Chuck Lewis, of Hearst Newspapers. In 2011, it was held by Susan Page, USA Today's Washington bureau chief. Page's husband, Carl Leubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News, had been president in 2008, making them the first married couple to have each served as Gridiron president.
Gridiron Club Dinner
The Gridiron Club is best known for its annual dinner which traditionally features the United States Marine Band, along with satirical musical skits by the members and remarks by the President of the United States and representatives of each political party. The skits and speeches by various politicians are expected to be self-deprecating or otherwise sharply comedic.
Every U.S. President since 1885 except Grover Cleveland has spoken at the dinner (President Barack Obama attended the 2011 dinner after missing both the 2009 and 2010 dinners. In addition, he spoke as a Senator in 2006). Bill and Hillary Clinton have both spoken at Club dinners, and the 2008 dinner marked the sixth time that President George W. Bush attended during his presidency. The dinner is held in the Spring, usually in March. Between 1945 and 2006, the dinner was held at the Capital Hilton. In 2007, it moved to the Renaissance Washington.
It is one of the few remaining large-scale white-tie affairs in Washington. It offers a neutral ground on which members of the press and various elected officials and political operatives can break bread together.
As is also true of the WHCA Dinner and RTCA Dinner, the Gridiron Club Dinner has been subject to criticism that it encourages journalists to engage in undue coziness with the political officials they are supposed to fairly cover, and also that the public spectacle of "playing footsie" with reporters' main subjects is bringing the political press into disgrace.
- Radio and Television Correspondents' Association
- White House Correspondents' Association
- National Press Club
- Andrew Glass, Cheney Yuks It Up With the Press, The Politico, April 1, 2007
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- Andrew Glass, Clinton & Clinton Inc., The Politico, March 10, 2007
- Shenanigans, The Politico, March 28, 2007
- Hamilton Nolan, Joke is on the press at annual DC dinners, PRWeek, April 3, 2007
- "President Obama Gridiron Club dinner speech 2013 transcript".