What Is The Edgar A. Poe Award? The White House Correspondents' Dinner Award Isn't What You Think

Well, it's that time of year again! The White House Correspondents' Dinner is Saturday night, and if you're watching it, you might have some questions now and then. After all, you're probably watching it for the same reason most people do — a brief glimpse of the political and entertainment worlds colliding. You might not be very familiar with some of the more official trappings of the event, however. For example: what is the Edgar A. Poe Award?

For all the annual dinner looks like just a conflagration of celebrity, media and Washington types, it's easy to lose sight of its origins. The White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) held the first such dinner back in 1920, and in the intervening years it established a number of awards to be given out annually – the Merriman Smith Award, the Aldo Beckman Award, and the Edgar A. Poe Award.

That last one sticks out, for a very obvious reason. The legendary author Edgar Allan Poe was one of the most famous fiction writers of all time, a pioneer of gripping, often understated macabre horror. Who could possibly forget The Cask of Amontillado ? Well, as it happens, that's not the person the award is named for — it's actually named after a former president of the WHCA who bears the exact same name, Edgar Allen Poe.

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So, what's the award all about? The name, obviously, is a tribute to Poe's legacy (he died in 1998), and the award is given to honor excellence in reporting on significant American national or regional subjects. It's described, by the WHCA itself, as follows:

The White House Correspondents' Association is pleased to announce competition for the Edgar A. Poe Award for 2015. The award honors excellence in news coverage of subjects and events of significant national or regional importance to the American people. The prize of $2,500 is funded by the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Newhouse Newspapers in honor of their distinguished correspondent Edgar A. Poe. Mr. Poe is a former WHCA president. The award will be presented at the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents' Association at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

Past winners of the award include San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada (for their reporting on steroid use in pro sports), military reporter Sean Naylor, and Michael Berens of The Seattle Times. Hopefully the reward is well-appreciated — $2,500 may not be the biggest cash award for a ceremonial prize, but I've got to say, it sure sounds like a nice chunk of change for somebody to hand you.

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