There has been a lot of talk over the course of the past few months about The Washington Post, primarily because of the release of the movie “The Post,” starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep and directed by Steven Spielberg.
I will admit, I have a soft spot in my heart for the movie during the awards ceremonies because The Washington Post was where I started my journalism career.
Regardless of your politics, I have to say that The Post is one of the only places I have worked where I walked through the door almost every day and was in awe.
Yes, there was the day-to-day grind of putting out a newspaper on tight deadlines, and you get caught up in that like you do any job. But there is also an overarching feeling of accomplishment in the building, of changing the world in some way. There are reminders of that protected behind framed glass, where the most historic of headlines and front pages are held.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression; I was not a superstar at The Post. I was hired in 1990, my senior year of college at George Mason University, by Emilio Garcia Ruiz, who is now the managing editor of the digital version of The Post, and my job was to learn the business in the sports department.
I started out taking high school scores on Friday nights, back when papers devoted a significant amount of space to local coverage; covered high school and small college games; worked the agate desk; graduated to assistant high school editor; eventually worked on the editing desk; and basically got enough experience to get a full-time writing job at another paper covering the NBA.
But as many memories as I have covering sports around the country and the world since I left the paper, I will always have a special place in my heart for my memories from The Post, the best breeding ground for journalists I can imagine.
Some of my most memorable moments:
The newsroom was on the fifth floor. The executives were on the sixth and seventh floors. One day, we had an anniversary event for somebody and there was an all-hands party on the fourth floor. When I hopped on an elevator to go down to the fourth, the doors opened and I climbed in with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Ben Bradlee – the Holy Trinity of journalism. I remember being blown away. As a 23-year-old cub, it was pretty cool. That was, by the way, the only time I ever saw Bernstein at the paper. Woodward was the Sunday editor, and if you worked Sundays (which you always do in sports), he’d buy five big tubs of ice cream like you see at Baskin-Robbins for the entire newsroom.
We worked with Shirley Povich, the father of Maury Povich. Shirley was this sweet little old man with a long black jacket and a black fedora, just how you pictured an old-time newsman. Shirley was 85 at the time I started working there, but he started when he was 17 and worked there for 75 years. He had covered – are you ready for this? – the game where Babe Ruth called his own shot in the 1932 World Series. According to Shirley, though, it never happened. He once told us, essentially, “I’m a pretty good reporter, and I think I’d remember that happening; not only do I not remember it, it was never even a topic of conversation in the press box.”
The ESPN show “Pardon the Interruption” was born in the newsroom of The Post. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon both were columnists at the time, and each would come out of his office in the middle of the day and start yelling at and debating the other across the newsroom. Who knew that, 20 years later, those scenes would become a cable television show?
My wife, whom I met at The Post, and I both were working the night that D.C. Mayor Marion Barry got busted smoking crack cocaine in his hotel room. The Vista International Hotel was right around the corner from The Post, and so we both ran over to see the fallout from when the “bitch set me up.”
We hated West Coast baseball and hockey games. Back then, there were five editions of the paper – the Cap edition at 9:30, then subsequent editions at 11:30, 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30, the final being the D.C. edition. We could not put the D.C. edition to bed until the last West Coast hockey and baseball games were over, in case something happened, and if there was an extra-inning game, we would have to sit in the newsroom and wait for it to end.
Now you know why there’s an East Coast bias.