On the House

Journalists have a long and essentially uncomplicated relationship with alcohol. “Between 1899 and 1904 there was only one reporter south of the Mason-Dixon Line who did not drink at all,” H. L. Mencken wrote, “and he was considered insane.”

The industry has changed a lot since 1904, but some things endure—and one is that while trade groups and PR flacks generally struggle to get reporters to their briefings, the liquor lobby can always count on a roomful of ink-stained wretches. And so I found myself, one December night in our nation’s capital, standing with several dozen other journos in a room where no news was being made, but the drinks were flowing.

The event was the annual reception hosted by the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America. WSWA spares no expense—they hired Sarah Palin to speak at their convention last year (her standard speaking fee is $100,000)—and everyone knows that the bars at their parties will be well stocked, the hors d’oeuvres gourmet. That probably explains how they persuaded news entities ranging from NPR to National Geographic, CNN, the Albuquerque Journal, the Slovakia Press Association, Mother Jones, and, naturally, Maxim to attend an event in which the main news was WSWA president Craig Wolf giving a $5,000 check to an organization that provides safe rides for people too drunk to drive. With at least six bars at the reception, it was pretty clear that check would be put to work...

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About the Author

Nick Baumann is the news editor for Mother Jones.