Here in the editorial offices of The Curmudgeon, I have sometimes been know to rant and rave about poor writing executed by a member of the staff. Not too much, but sometimes. Never mind that I am guilty of my own share of mistakes and crappy writing, but I’m the boss. When they become the boss, they can write crappy too.
But I don’t recall having ever punched a writer in the kisser (though I may have kissed a writer in the puncher). It’s just not the type of thing you expect in this day and age of political correctness and the threat of lawsuits that has us all walking around on metaphorical rice paper. But at the Washington Post, the good old days are here again, at least briefly, when veteran Washington Post Style editor Henry Allen punched a writer smack-dab in his chicklets.
It should perhaps be mentioned that the Style section of the Post is often derogatorily referred to as the “sandbox,” since it is often staffed with young and inexperienced reporters. The brouhaha went down like this: The editor said to the writers of the article, “This is total crap. It’s the second worst story I have seen in Style in 43 years.” One of the writers said back to him, “Don’t be such a coc**ucker!” Well, nobody calls Allen a coc**ucker. An ass*ole, sure, a dic*wad, okay, but not a coc**ucker. So Allen threw the reporter to the floor and let the fists fly, right in front of the big boss’ office. Bad move.
Allen was later called into his boss’ office, the door solemnly shutting behind him. His contract is up later this year. He probably wont be back. Who has time to worry about the quality of work anyway?
Allenl is almost 70 years old and a former Marine who served in Vietnam. In 2000, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. I think both his military training and his criticism skill helped him here. Truth is, he misses the old days, when newspapers meant something, and editors would say, “I don’t care what you have to do, just bring me that story! Occasionally, if you were lucky, you might even hear, “Stop the presses!” You think they stop the presses nowadays? Do you know how much it costs to stop the presses? Besides, the presses probably aren’t even in the building, but across town, the state, the country, or even the world. Who the hell knows anymore.
Hey, that gives me an idea. That sounds like a story. A BIG story. Excuse me while I speak to my staff.
“Stop the Internet! I’ve got a story!”
(Information for this story came from the Washingtonian, in a story by Harry Jaffe, Nov. 2nd, 2009.)
(Correction: Thanks to notification by the brother of the stlyle editor of the Washington Post, this article as been corrected. It originally reported that style editor Ned Martell threw the punch, but he didn’t. He assigned the story, but it was Sr. Editor Henry Allen who through the punch. – CC)