It sounds almost too bizarre to be true, but here’s the story about a fist-fight in the Washington Post newsroom, in the Style section:
Details are sketchy, but numerous witnesses report that veteran feature editor Henry Allen punched out feature writer Manuel Roig-Franzia on Friday. The fracas took place in sight of Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli’s office. Brauchli rushed to separate the two.
It should be noted that Allen is nearly seventy, but he served in the Marines in Vietnam. He also won a Pulitzer prize in 2000 for criticism. Both apparently came into play when Allen jumped Roig-Franzia.
According to many sources, the incident began when Style editor Ned Martel assigned a semi-political story to Monica Hesse and Roig-Franzia. Playing off of an inadvertent disclosure last week that many congressmen are being investigated for ethics violations, Martel asked the two Style writers to compile a list of similar disclosures in the past. They came up with a “charticle” with a dozen examples, starting with Robert E. Lee’s Civil War battle plans for Antietam showing up wrapped around cigars.
Allen took a look and didn’t like. He started ranting about the number of mistakes he had found.
Hesse at one point asked him to send the copy back to her. She got a bit teary at the verbal beatdown.
Allen, according to sources, said: “This is total crap. It’s the second worst story I have seen in Style in 43 years.”
Roig-Franzia then wandered into the newsroom. A veteran foreign correspondent, he has been turning out political features for Style. He heard Allen’s rant and stopped by his desk.
“Oh, Henry,” he supposedly said, “don’t be such a cocks—–.”
As a veteran of three daily newspaper newsrooms, I’m not surprised by much of anything that happens in them. Anyone who’s survived a big-city newsroom has also seen the enormous egos that fill them. Add to that the insanely subjective nature of who’s considered terrific and who sucks, stories that get assigned that are so stupid you can’t believe it but you need a paycheck so you try anyway, management that prefers not to manage and an industry in meltdown…
The Washingtonian story is good, but read the comments. Even better!