City Paper is not for tourists
The buzz around town today is all about Sally Quinn‘s new low, aka a column in this morning’s Style section in which she explains all about a wedding-scheduling snafu in her own family.
For all of you who have substantive things to worry about, this is what the piece was about: In recent days, there’ve been published reports about how the columnist’s son, Quinn Bradlee, is scheduled to get married on the same day as the granddaughter of Quinn’s husband, Washington Post legend Ben Bradlee. So Quinn used this week’s edition of her Style column, “The Party,” to rebut the negativity in those reports, and to assert that even a “so-called expert” (herself, that is) on the art of entertaining can slip up now and again.
The comments section has been downright abusive, as in: “TimPage1 wrote: When the brilliant and legendary Henry Allen had a dust-up at the Post with some reporters, he referred to their article as “the second worst piece ever printed in Style.” This led to a heated question on the Washingtonian blog — what was the WORST piece ever printed in Style? There’s a new champion today. Unbelievable.”
Another glorious takedown comes from Tom Scocca and Choire Sicha, writing on the fabulous The Awl.
Of course, TimPage1, Scocca, Sicha, and myself are punching a pretty easy target here, and perhaps a target that loves nothing more than serving as a target. But the newsworthy thing about this particular abomination is not so much just how bad the column is, how self-unaware Quinn is, or anything like that. She can be as bad as she wants to be.
The real questions are for her editor, Style editor Ned Martel, and here’s just a start:
1) Mr. Martel: Is this the sort of material you envisioned when you launched the column?
2) Mr. Martel: In the column, Ms. Quinn references “tensions” within her family, yet she never explains what those tensions were. If your columnist made a passing reference to tensions within any other family, or tensions within a company, or tensions within a book club, wouldn’t you demand further explanation of those tensions?
3) Mr. Martel: How is it that there was no overlap on the guest lists for the two weddings under discussion here?
4) Mr. Martel: Your columnist is using the increasingly precious space in the print edition of the Washington Post to rebut criticism aired in other media outlets. Is this something that’s encouraged at the paper? If someone attacks another columnist or reporter, is that space going to be available for further rebuttals? Could you carve out some column inches just for this purpose? And why are there no links to said criticism?
5) Mr. Martel: Your columnist slimes her husband in print, saying she instructed him “to put the date [of his granddaughter’s wedding] on his calendar, and he did not. A warning to wives everywhere!” Did the husband have a chance to comment for the column?
6) Mr. Martel: Did you read this column before it was published?
Alas, Mr. Martel is not going to answer those questions. After ringing him up this afternoon, here’s the conversation that ensued:
I asked Martel if I could interview him about the column. He responded, “I am going to decline to comment.”
I told him it’s just about the column, nothing terribly sensitive: “That is the way it’s going to be.”
I told him that it’s generally been the case that editors at the Post speak up in defense of their journalism, and Martel said, “I am going to forward your questions to Kris Coratti.” Kris Coratti is the paper’s spokesperson, and the last time we checked in with her, she was declining to tell us about the various editions that the paper prints each day.
Winding down the conversation with Martel, I told him that refusing to speak about what the paper had printed “stinks.”
“Oh, sorry,” he responded.
Another victory for the Brauchli Doctrine!