When the White House Gets Mad at the Washington Post

President Truman with daughter Margaret.

On December 5, 1950, President Harry Truman’s daughter, Margaret, an aspiring opera singer, gave a concert at Washington’s Constitution Hall before a glittering audience of 3,500. In the Washington Post the next morning, music critic Paul Hume offered a straightforward opinion. “Miss Truman,” Hume wrote, “cannot sing very well.”

Responding to the Hume review in this note, Truman made no pretense of presidential neutrality, exercising what he later told Margaret was the right to be both a president and a human being.

Hardly an old man, Hume was 34. Westbrook Pegler was a Pulitzer-Prize-winning, often controversial journalist.

Massive Resistance: What It Was Like to Cover Race Relations in Virginia

By William B. Mead

In 1958 I got my first job, with United Press International in Richmond, Virginia, and stumbled into a story that came to be the highlight of my career.

Under the leadership of U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr.,  the state of Virginia had adopted a policy of “Massive Resistance” to school integration, which had been ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954. The Virginia General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a series of obstructionist laws. The most important one:  Whenever a federal court ordered a white public school to accept a black child, that school was immediately closed.

“A Treasonous Act”—How Anna Chennault Helped Elect Richard Nixon

Anna Chennault, secret Nixon envoy,
Washington figure of ‘glamour
and mystery,’ dies at 94
—Washington Post, April 3, 2018
From a cover story about Anna Chennault, by Judith Viorst, in the September 1969 Washingtonian:

Anna Chennault says someday she’ll write a book about Vietnam. Maybe then we’ll find out whether or not this exotic Oriental beauty really did try to stall the peace talks in Paris long enough to give Richard Nixon the Presidency.

Meanwhile, the story remains one of those titillating tales which, along with the latest reports on her celebrity-studded parties and the VIP men in her life, help keep Anna Chennault in the news.

How Journalism Has Become More Elite, the Difference Between Editors and Writers, the Importance of Networks

From an article, Expertise in Journalism: Factors Shaping a Cognitive and Culturally Elite Profession, by Kaja Perina, editor of Psychology Today, and Jonathan Wai, of the University of Arkansas:

In terms of education, elite journalists tend to go to more highly selective institutions and have higher educational attainment. For typical journalists overall, a summary of core characteristics follows: knowledge of English and communications and media; core skills include reading, writing, listening, critical thinking, social perceptiveness, complex problem solving, learning, judgment and decision making, persuasion and negotiation; core abilities include oral and written comprehension and expression, reasoning, originality, problem sensitivity, information ordering, and fluency of ideas; core interests are artistic and enterprising; and core work values are achievement, recognition, independence, and good working conditions.

How More Than One Editor Has Described More Than One Writer But Never Publicly

Author’s note on a Washington Post Outlook section story, “I know what Stormy Daniels is facing,” by Sydney Leathers:

Sydney Leathers is a freelance writer and sex worker in the Midwest.

Wordplay Fun About the Media: What Was Wolf Blitzer’s Real Name?

The Style Invitational is a weekly humor/wordplay contest in the Washington Post. It runs in the newspaper’s Sunday Style section and the March 25 contest was headlined: “Hedlyin’ news: Media fictoids.”

From the contest’s editor, Pat Myers: “In week 1268, as part of The Style Invitational’s relentless crusade to unenlighten readers with bogus trivia, we asked for fictoids about the news media and publishing industry. Despite his obvious qualifications for this contest, the President of the United States failed to enter and therefore gets no ink.”

What Good Copyeditors Do: They’re Wary of Writers Who Like “Original” Words

By Bill O’Sullivan

Washingtonian senior managing editor Bill O’Sullivan.

Here are three more things good copyeditors do. (Read the first three here and the next three here.)

1. Watch out for word repetition. Using the same word several times in a sentence or paragraph causes a clanging in the ear—or a thud. Careful copyeditors listen to sentences as much as they read them. Writers have looked at their own sentences so many times that it’s easy for them to miss this repetition. Readers will catch it if a copyeditor doesn’t.

When Lawyers Threaten Journalists: Edward Bennett Williams Is on the Line and Wants to Talk to You

Michael Cohen has long been Donald Trump’s personal lawyer; the President had dinner with him Saturday night before “Sixty Minutes” aired its interview with Stormy Daniels. Here’s Cohen, the lawyer, telling the Huffington Post what would happen to them legally if they continued its reporting of the Trump-Daniels story:

“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said. “So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”

“America: We Have a Problem”—The Signs at the March for Our Lives

By Mike Feinsilber

The women marching the day after President Trump’s inauguration were ironic, defiant, sarcastic, even funny on the signs they carried, but there was nothing funny about the “March for Our Lives” which filled the ceremonial streets of Washington on Saturday. These marchers were here to change a country and prevent another massacre. The signs they carried conveyed their anger and their purpose.

Jammed in on Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the FBI Building, unable to move forward, backwards, or sideways, I jotted down the sermons on some of the homemade signs that were within eyesight. As much as the day’s oratory, they conveyed urgency. Here’s a sampling:

What Good Copyeditors Do: “You Can Always Do Better Than Stale”

By Bill O’Sullivan

Washingtonian senior managing editor Bill O’Sullivan.

Here are three more things good copyeditors do. (Read the first three here.)

1. See that each sentence is the tightest it can be. Instead of “There are some people who think the President can do better,” try “Some think the President can do better.” (All writers can do better by avoiding “there is” and “there are.”)

By the same token, would too much tightening kill a joke, mar the rhythm, or harm the writer’s voice? Maybe. Sometimes you actually are harming the voice, and sometimes the writer is the only one thinking you are.