Some things did not change at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday night. It was staged at the same big hotel in the nation’s capital. A cast of thousands jammed cocktail parties sponsored by news organizations, then dined upon filet mignon and dainty desserts. The din in the glittering ballroom was huge.

Some things were different, however. There was a notable lack of celebrities. There were no Trump administration officials. The red carpet walkway became a backdrop for hundreds of selfies. There was no nimble comedian to amuse the throng.

Instead, Ron Chernow — a high-profile historian who wrote the much acclaimed book “Hamilton” — held forth for the after-dinner hour, talking of the First Amendment and the glories of journalism itself.

“This is a glorious tradition. You folks are a part of it, and we can’t have politicians trampling on it with impunity,” Mr. Chernow told the audience. “Relations between presidents and the press are inevitably tough, almost always adversarial, but they don’t need to be steeped in venom.”

He later got a standing ovation.

President Trump had already deemed the event “boring” and did not attend the dinner for the third year in a row, instead appearing a massive campaign-style rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where a “CNN sucks” chant rocked the rafters at one point. Mr. Trump’s audience spent most of their evening on their feet cheering.

The press itself, however, made the most of the situation — a cultural moment of sorts.

“A funny historian outclassed Trump,” wrote CNN columnist and talk-radio host Dean Obeidallah.

“With no Trump or cutting comedian, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner took subtle jabs,” USA Today said, calling the event “less of a roast and more of a toast.”

“Even away from the correspondents’ dinner, Trump makes sure to have his say,” said The New York Times, while National Public Radio compared the two Saturday evening soirees.

“Separate events held Saturday evening in the nation’s capital and a Wisconsin arena painted two divergent pictures of the press. In Washington, the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, an annual comedic event, was light on jokes and replete instead with warnings about the consequences of attacks on the free press. Meanwhile, President Trump rallied supporters in Green Bay, touting economic growth and repeating familiar calls of ‘fake news’ to a cheering crowd,” NPR said.

One observer cited an unintentional by-product of the correspondents’ event.

“As the dinner falls into well-deserved obscurity, it’s worth remembering that it was this very dinner — and its often vile insults — that gave birth to the presidency of Donald Trump,” wrote Douglas MacKinnon in an op-ed for Fox News, saying the president was right to skip the dinner.

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