What does the Washington Post have to do to finally be rid of TV critic Tom Shales? Shales took a buyout in 2006 but kept working as a contract writer for the paper. Then he quit that in 2010, via a Dennis Miller routine of a Facebook post on Washington Post Company CEO Don Graham‘s page.
Now, nearly three years later, he’s writing about the various injuries Post editors have committed against him. These include editing mention of a gay bathhouse out of a story about Bette Midler:
It was a long time ago, yes, and the word gay was hardly tossed around as glibly as it is now; if a President of the United States then had alluded in a televised speech to same-sex marriages, he would have been derided as a wild-eyed loony. Even so, the editor’s reaction was patently absurd. But she was adamant, and I was advised not to appeal the “ruling” to Ben Bradlee or Howard Simons, the Post’s top editors, because they were, uh, very busy. So the piece was butchered and I, not the editor, looked like an idiot for referring to the Continental Baths as “colorful” or some other euphemism.
The editor later “came out” as a lesbian.
(It’s worth pausing here to realize that this incident took place in the 1970s, and the year is now 2013.)
Wanting Tom Shales to die when he had pneumonia, according to Tom Shales:
It occurred to me much later that, while fellow writers and a few editors were wishing me well and making the kind of irreverent jokes that journalists love to make, my editor was back there barely visible thinking to himself, “The miserable fat son-of-a-bitch! I hope he never comes out of here alive.” Damn.
And the continued existence of the Washington Post:
People sometimes told me they couldn’t imagine the Washington Post’s Style section without me, which was flattering in a way, but what came to pass was considerably more surprising: the Washington Post without the Washington Post. Yes, the paper still exists and appears daily, but its golden age fades further and further into the mists of memory.
Not unsurprisingly, some at the Post weren’t happy with the idea that they’re children playing around a decaying, Ozymandias-like bust of Tom Shales. Current Post critic Chris Richards tweets:
I was raised in Style. I’m so proud to work here. But will we ever measure up to this petulant bag of human sadness? bit.ly/11hawl7
— Chris _ _ Richards (@Chris__Richards) April 23, 2013
Which means we’ll be reading a blog post about that in another few years.