After the employee cafeteria at the Washington Post‘s office downtown was closed by health inspectors yesterday, Washington City Paper and Jim Romenesko reported on a memo that Jeff Cox, the paper’s director of operations and administrative services, sent the staff. That didn’t sit so well with Post editorial writer Charles Lane, who just sent an email to newsroom staffers about the publication of Cox’s memo:

For us, the closure of the cafeteria due to cleanliness issues is a minor inconvenience, a bit of an institutional embarrassment, a modest health issue and, of course, fodder for the usual newsroom snark.

For the cheerful, hard-working father of four who wakes up every day before dawn to make our coffee and spread out our salad bar, however, it is a serious matter, entailing loss of income, reputational damage, additional expenses, etc. – even though it’s entirely unclear how much this decent, honest man, or the employees who assist him, are actually at fault, or how much harm anyone actually suffered.

So it would be nice if he did not also have to contend with being mentioned, and indeed implicitly mocked, by name, in the press, before he’s even had a chance to remedy the situation and submit to follow-up inspection.

Alas, someone who received Jeff Cox’s email thought it would be cute to spread this bit of internal trivia to the City Paper and others, and couldn’t resist the impulse.

If I were the cafeteria operator, I might be exploring my legal options (defamation, breach of privacy, etc.) right now. I suppose that’s just one of the unfortunate possible side effects that the leaker didn’t consider.


Charles Lane

Should Lane send another email out about this post, be sure to look for it here. In the meantime, you can read the report from the D.C. Department of Health’s inspection of the Post‘s cafeteria below. We’ve redacted information about the cafeteria operator, though it’s now a matter of public record, out of deference to Lane.

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Photo by Darrow Montgomery