Wink, Wink Journalism: Just Read Between the Lines

By Jack Limpert

Ten years ago I took Kitty Kelley off the Washingtonian’s masthead after her book, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, was published. Here’s what the Washington Post said about it on December 8, 2004:

Kitty, Cut Loose and Put Out

After a relationship of more than 30 years, Washingtonian magazine and writer Kitty Kelley are divorcing, and the terms are not amicable. Kelley is in a snit because the mag unceremoniously booted her from the masthead of its current issue, citing her controversial book “The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty.” In an e-mail last week, Editor Jack Limpert lashed Kelley for what he called the book’s partisan timing and its irresponsible reporting about President Bush:

A Gyrocopter Isn’t an Aircraft With a Sandwich on Top? No, But Here’s a Good Story…

By Jack Limpert

The lead story on page one of today’s Washington Post is about a Florida mailman who landed a gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, causing questions and jokes on Twitter about what’s a gyrocopter. Andrew Beaujon of the Washingtonian tweeted “What’s a Gyrocopter? A small plane with an unpowered rotor. So it’s not an aircraft with a sandwich on top?”

Gyrocopter…sandwiches—that brings back one of the funniest stories from Christopher Byron’s book, The Fanciest Dive, about an attempt in the 1980s by Time Inc., then riding high as the publisher of Time, People, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated, to start a magazine called TV-Cable Week. Byron, a writer and editor at Time, was part of the team picked to start the magazine.

Annals of Security: “Sorry, Mr. Webster, You’re Not on the List”

By Jack Limpert

In the Washington of the late 1960s I could walk into almost any federal building (not the White House, Pentagon, or CIA) without anyone asking me anything. In 1968 I was a Congressional Fellow in the office of Vice President Humphrey—he lived in an apartment in Tiber Island, a newly renewed area of DC that was close to the Capitol. If you were visiting him at his home, you’d walk in the building’s front door, talk to a Secret Service agent who had a small office near the building entrance, and take the elevator to Humphrey’s apartment.

The Secret Service’s Second Most Important Job—Driving the Car

By Jack Limpert

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 5.02.34 PM

The only driving President Obama does.

Hillary Clinton, in a van named “Scooby,” is off on a 1,000 mile road trip to Iowa but it’s unlikely she’ll be behind the wheel. She’s said she hasn’t driven a car for almost 20 years.

In 1968 I was a Congressional Fellow in the office of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, and after he lost the presidential election to Richard Nixon, I helped him with some of his writing—mostly a weekly column that was syndicated to newspapers around the country. He had been Vice President for four years and had learned to enjoy some of the benefits—including being driven everywhere—of Secret Service protection.

David Laventhol, Ben Bradlee, and the Rise and Fall of Style

By Jack Limpert

fp_styleJournalist David Laventhol died on April 8—here’s the lede on today’s Washington Post obit:

David Laventhol, a onetime publisher of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday, who had a major role in shaping the development of the Style section as an editor at The Washington Post in the 1960s, died April 8 at his home in New York City. He was 81.

The Post obit went on to say:

Mr. Laventhol came to The Post in 1966 as one the first newsroom hires of then-managing editor Benjamin C. Bradlee. In 1968, Bradlee asked Mr. Laventhol to rework the section then known as ‘“For and About Women.”

The Most Washington Movie Ever—and the Search for Deep Throat

By Jack Limpert


Mark Felt was the secret source for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Watergate reporting.

After a month of voting, readers of The Washingtonian decided that of all the films ever set in Washington, All the President’s Men—Alan Pakula’s 1976 adaptation of the Washington Post’s reporting on the 1972 break-in at the Watergate—is the “most Washington” of them all. The Washingtonian says the movie deserves the honor: Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman gave memorable performances as Washington Post  reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and Jason Robards won an Oscar for his portrayal of Post editor Ben Bradlee. And then there was the wonderfully mysterious character Deep Throat, who Woodward said met him in an underground parking garage and helped guide his Watergate reporting.

How Writers Work: “Never End a Day Written Out, With Nothing More to Say”

By Ray E. Boomhower


John Bartlow Martin: His peers called him “the best living reporter.”

During the 1940s and ’50s one name, John Bartlow Martin, dominated the pages of the “big slicks,” the mass-circulation magazines. Writing mostly for the Saturday Evening Post, Martin produced multi-part articles on such topics as mental illness, divorce, abortion, and desegregation in the South.

A former reporter for the Indianapolis Times, Martin was one of the nation’s few freelance writers able to support himself from his magazine work. His peers called him as “the best living reporter,” the “ablest crime reporter in America,” and “one of America’s premier seekers of fact.”

“A Long, Deadly Release of Flatulence”: The Year’s Foulest Lede?

By Jack Limpert

Here’s the lede of a book review on the front page of the Style section in today’s Washington Post; the book is The Sympathizer, a novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen that opens with helicopters evacuating the last Americans from Saigon as the Vietnam war was ending.

“Forty years ago this month, after a long, deadly release of flatulence from American politicians, the United States evacuated its personnel from Saigon in an operation appropriately code-named Frequent Wind.”

Journalism 101: Two Tweets That May Need Some Explaining

Here’s a clever tweet that brings up the fact that correlation doesn’t always mean causation:

Geoff Lewis
Some of the most successful people in the world are also some of the most gracious. Causation, not correlation.
An explanation from the book A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, by John Allen Paulos:

Writing Advice from Strunk, White, and Orwell: “Avoid Fancy Words”

By Jack Limpert

A letter to the editor in yesterday’s Washington Post:

Using Fancy Words Gratuitously
I wish journalists would heed the advice in “The Elements of Style,” Strunk and White’s classic book on writing, which includes “avoid fancy words.” Despite this sound advice, journalists continue to bombard us with foreign phrases just to let us know that they are highly intelligent. Does it ever occur to them that most of their readers won’t know what the fancy words mean?