Is This Latest Weingarten Piece Another Pulitzer Winner or a Lot of Blah Blah Blah?

By Jack Limpert

Today’s Washington Post Magazine has a long cover story by Gene Weingarten headlined “Can We Ever Be One Country Again?” Weingarten is the magazine’s back-page humor columnist but also the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for feature writing. You’re expecting a Weingarten cover story to be good if not great.

Sure enough, I got an email from an editor I had worked with for a long time saying: “I guess everyone who gets the paper Post has seen Tom Toles’ farewell cartoon today (I found it admirable and touching), but in case anyone hasn’t read Weingarten’s piece I urge you to take a look. His stuff sometimes can be hit or miss, but this piece is riveting.”

I had read Weingarten’s story—all 7,000 words of it—and was baffled. The story had a great ending focused on the political attitudes of his son, Daniel. As part of a 600-word column, the father-son differences would have worked well but as I wrote back to editor one, “It was a good 600 word column blown up to many thousands of words. Too much blah blah before the great ending.”

Another editor joined in: “Weingarten’s piece has one of the best last paragraphs of all time and is worth reading just to get there, but I think he sets the whole thing up with a straw dog. Robert O’Neill struck me as an intriguing character but an absolute moral desert. Rather than confront that issue—which would be interesting—Weingarten uses him to burnish his owns creds as a guy willing to think outside the box, but then halfway through the piece, he basically abandons O’Neill and his abhorrent politics and settles into a glide path to the spectacular end. All of which might say nothing more than that I think the WaPo is perilously weak at the edges, precisely where I think the NYT is strong.”


  1. Richard Mattersdorff says

    Do you think it would have been longer, and perhaps better, in an earlier iteration of WaPo Magazine? I thought it could havebeen improved with an additional character or two.

    I recalled NONE OF THE ABOVE.

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