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As executive editor of the Post, Leonard Downie Jr. has little fame to go with his considerable power. Since taking the paper’s top job in 1991, Downie has preferred the day-in, day-out grind of newspapering to hobnobbing with local glitterati. When he gets press attention, it highlights not a flamboyant newsroom character but an ethically puritanical helmsman.

A novel could elevate that profile. A tome on the best-seller lists could easily turn a reticent journo into a chronic TV-talk-show guest, à la Mitch Albom. And according to newsroom sources, Downie has a concept for a piece of long fiction that he’s been working on in his scant spare time. There’s no deadline and no publisher—just a “hobby,” according to an informed source.

“I think he ought to do it,” says Managing Editor Steve Coll. “He’s an extremely creative and complicated person who sees a lot more of the world and its shading than he gets credit for.”

Downie refuses to comment on the project, but here’s a safe bet: The book will focus on Washington. “Len knows more about how this town really operates than anybody that I know,” says Coll.

—Erik Wemple