The Washington Times did just about everything right in commemorating the life of Woody West, a former executive editor of the paper. On May 2, it ran a front-page obituary on West, who started at the Times in late 1982, shortly after its founding. On May 5, the paper ran an entire page of tributes to West.
But it got his age wrong.
The Times said that West was 70 at the time of his death. However, records at West’s place of birth, Lewis and Clark County, Mont., indicate that West was born on June 6, 1934. That would mean that he died at 69.
Funny thing: The front-page obit in the Times actually included a correct date of birth for West. Somehow, the paper flubbed the ever-so-tricky translation from date of birth to age. Perhaps Times editors should moonlight as nightclub bouncers.
In keeping with at least the first part of its motto—“Get it first. Get it right”—the Times got its obit into print the day after West died. Since 70 seemed like such a nice, round number, everyone apparently just rode with it.
The Green Bay Press-Gazette ran an item on West’s passing, complete with the wrong age. Pat Hawver, who manages the obits at that paper, says she got the number from Rest Haven Funeral Chapel in Hagerstown, Md., where West lived. Rest Haven declined to comment on the matter but did confirm that West was in his 70th year.
West’s widow, JoAnn Wochos West, appears to have believed the Times, too. A Washington Post reporter confirmed that age with her as the Post was preparing its own version of the obit, according to Post Metro editor Jo-Ann Armao. (JoAnn Wochos West could not be reached for comment.)
After looking into the matter, Armao said the Post would run a correction on Thursday.
But will the Times? The paper turned down repeated requests for comment.
Grounds for Removal
Post management is now learning an important precept of journalism: Never get between reporters and their coffee vendor.
On Wednesday, Post suits ousted Romi Seyoum from La Petite Cafe, a custom-coffee stand that she has operated in the Post cafeteria for the past six years. Newsroom staffers responded with protests pillorying management for the move. “There are few things that seemed to have stirred people as much as this,” says national-desk reporter Ceci Connolly, a non-coffee-drinker for whom Seyoum used to prepare whipped skim milk with coffee flavoring.
The outraged Posties doubtless see the kind of story line that their editors gobble up: Megacorporation pisses on the small fry. Seyoum, 41, is a single mother with two children who worked as a street vendor outside the Post building before securing her spot in the cafeteria. The Post is kicking her out because it needs to squeeze more revenue out of its cafeteria, where Seyoum paid $500 in monthly rent.
So the Post is replacing Seyoum’s offerings with “a variety of Starbucks products at a savings from Starbucks outlet prices,” says a May 13 memo from Peggy Schiff, a vice president and controller of the Post.
“Starbucks is a business partner of The Post that sells the newspaper in many of their locations, and we are very pleased to expand their offerings here,” reads the memo.
Trading Seyoum for Starbucks, says Post spokesperson Eric Grant, “reduces the substantial subsidy that the Post provides for the employee cafeteria.” Grant cites longer service hours as another reason for bouncing Seyoum: “We made the change to get expanded service for Post employees.” Grant declines to comment on whether the company ever approached Seyoum about expanding her hours.
Management initially offered Seyoum $5,000 in going-away money. The offer came right in the midst of a blitz of e-mails from reporters protesting the ouster. Several days later, on May 10, the company upped the amount to $10,000, according to Seyoum, who had told management that $5,000 was “not enough.” After getting more cash, the barista told Dept. of Media: “This makes me feel much better….I can leave with this money.”
Isn’t the Post supposed to be exposing hush-money deals, not administering them? Asked why the paper doubled its payout, Grant says only that the company put forth “a transitional arrangement. I’d rather not get into the numbers here.”
In her May 13 memo to Post staff, Schiff suggested that Seyoum was leaving of her own accord: “She now has a chance to have a broader opportunity, and we support her in that effort.”
Schiff’s memo was enough of a stretch to prompt a response from Seyoum, who on May 17 wrote: “…I have been unwillingly forced out of my business…..An arrangement with another business had already been underway without my knowledge.”
On Wednesday, Seyoum’s supporters ate cake and signed an appreciation book by her cart. “What an awful thing,” commented Lynda Robinson, an editor at the Post Magazine. “The bottom line is that they shouldn’t have done this.”
Bob Woodward: Investigative Reporter, Humanitarian
Bob Woodward has a Pulitzer Prize, 12 books, 10 of them No. 1 best sellers, and a ton of critical praise for his latest opus, Plan of Attack. Through it all, the Post legend has never lost touch with the needy.
In his May 10 appearance on a special “Power Players” edition of Jeopardy!, Woodward was asked by host Alex Trebek to designate a charity for any potential winnings.
“Sidwell Friends,” responded Woodward, adding that his 7-year-old daughter, Diana Woodward, is a first-grader at the school.
The audience at DAR Constitution Hall applauded the choice. Certainly the well-informed onlookers knew of the plight of primary-school children at the school, who attend classes at Sidwell’s Bethesda Lower School. According to school documents, those Sidwell students put up with an “over-programmed multi-purpose room” that must accommodate “PE, dining, theatre and general assembly.” Another hazard is that “Spanish has no classroom” and computer sciences “uses substandard space in meetinghouse basement.” A renovation is in the planning stages.
With everyone pitching in, Sidwell can emerge from the renovation of its Lower School campus with enough money to accomplish its other priorities, such as training teachers, funding scholarships, and upgrading its Wisconsin Avenue campus. Associate Head of School Ellis Turner places the school’s endowment at $30 million.
Woodward lost his Jeopardy! round to CNN personality Tucker Carlson and Wall Street Journal Contributing Editor Peggy Noonan. The third-place effort, nonetheless, netted $20,000 for Sidwell Friends.
“We’re ecstatic,” says Turner. “We’re very grateful to Mr. Woodward for his generosity.”
Says Woodward: “I did get some e-mails saying Sidwell Friends is not a charity. It is. It’s a school, and I think any school should be helped.” —Erik Wemple
Washington Times Corrections
Corrections Policy: The Washington Times lacks the resources to run
its own corrections. Therefore, it relies on the Washington City Paper to manage this critical function.
If you see an error in the Washington Times, please contact Erik Wemple at (202) 332-2100 x 450, or e-mail to WashTimesCorrex @ washcp.com.
•An April 30 opinion piece by Diana West misspelled the name of Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
•An April 30 story by Jim McElhatton misspelled the name of Congress Heights resident Sandra Seegars. The story also said Seegars lives on Savannah Avenue; she lives on Savannah Street.
•A May 2 story misstated the age of former Washington Times Executive Editor Woody West at the time of his death. He was 69, not 70.
•A May 5 tribute to former Washington Times Executive Editor Woody West misstated his age at the time of his death. He was 69, not 70.
•A May 5 story by Matthew Cella incorrectly stated that a D.C. police officer earned $93,280 in overtime pay in 2001. In fact, the officer earned that amount in 2003. Also, the story incorrectly stated that 2002 was the last year for which statistics on overtime were available. In fact, statistics are available for 2003: In that year, there were 205 D.C. police officers topping $100,000 in income.
•A May 6 story by Matthew Cella incorrectly stated that there is no precedent for a sitting D.C. councilmember to run for the seat of a colleague. In fact, Ward 1 Councilmember Dave Clarke challenged and defeated incumbent D.C. Council Chairman Arrington Dixon in 1982.
•A May 14 column by Adrienne Washington incorrectly stated that the John Philip Sousa Middle School is located in Southwest. In fact, it is located in Southeast.
•A May 15 news item misspelled the name of former United Way Executive Oral Suer.
•A May 15 story by Matthew Cella misstated the amount of money that the D.C. Council set aside for contingency spending. The figure is $43 million, not $35 million.
•A May 16 story by Denise Barnes incorrectly stated that the 10 debutantes and their escorts at the Amerigroup 2004 D.C. Youth Cotillion attend schools in the District. In fact, they attend schools in the region.