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Sparks Fly at Party for Media Elite

Last night’s second annual Opinion Awards, sponsored by the Aspen Institute and The Week magazine, saw the New Republic’s Peter Beinart honored as columnist of the year, Tom Toles of the Washington Post as editorial cartoonist of the year, Jonathan Turley honored for his single-issue advocacy journalism, and Powerline honored as blog of the year.

Dining on Kentucky bibb salad bouquets with merlot-roasted pears, tenderloins of beef with potato, celeriax and stilton gratin, and gi-normous brownie ice cream towers, the 250 guests sat in the luxurious Andrew W. Mellon auditorium at the EPA complex on Constitution Avenue–a room so stately that Beinart described it as resembling a room from the Roman Principate (whatever that is).

Full report after the jump.

D.C. journalist, business, and political luminaries dotted the audience, including one legendary table that held Ted Sorenson, Time’s Matthew Cooper, Walter Isaacson, and the Post’s David Ignatius. Ariana Huffington, Richard Perle, Nieman’s Bob Giles, BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis, NPR’s Brooke Gladstone, and several senators, including keynoter Chuck Hagel, Mary Landrieu, Jon Corzine, Ron Wyden, and John Sununu, also mingled.

The post-dinner panel on whether the media elite is out of touch with America soon devolved into a “testosterone fusillade,” in the words of Tina Brown, between progressive talker Ed Schultz and Reverend Pat Robertson. The fourth panelist Margaret Carlson stayed mostly out of the fray, although she too mixed it up with Robertson towards the end. The panel was supposed to be moderated by ABCNews’ George Stephanopoulos, but co-host Sir Harold Evans had to pinch hit, explaining that the newsman was caught by weather in New York.

The consensus by the end? Most of the panelists would like to see the so-called “media elite” be a little more elite–leading by example by talking about important issues rather than lowering itself to covering the Michael Jackson trial and Jessica Simpson’s daily travails. As Tina Brown summed it up, “The media elite isn’t out of touch enough with America.”

Here’s an representative quote from the Atlantic’s Fallows stripped of all context: “[The media elite's] out of touch, but so’s everyone.”

The gift bags at the end of the evening included $100 gift certificates to the watch store Tourneau, as well as Aspen Institute pens and The Week notebooks–plus, of course, every guest left with a copy of The Week magazine.

Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to meet Wonkette, who spoke earlier in the afternoon at one of the two pre-dinner panel discussions. C’est la vie.

(E&P has a write-up of the event here.)

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