Testy Copy Editors

The pecking order
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Author:  J Kaufman [ Sun Aug 11, 2013 6:04 pm ]
Post subject:  The pecking order

Who ranked closest to the bottom at the Washington Post, after the stylish few, the foul-mouthed females, the jeans-wearers, the admirable professionals and the drunks? Need you ask?

The newsroom wasn’t happy — no newsroom is — but there was a rogue aristocrat’s confidence that the luck of The Post could be taken for granted. No one imagined that the new élan would become a ghost haunting us years later, prompting people to ask, “Didn’t The Post used to be better?”

I was asked that so often as the decades wore on that I came up with a stock wisecrack: “It always used to be better.”

The Post that questioners remembered had yet to grow into its greatness, but its happy few gave it style, a sexy, ironic edge. It was liberal and Ivy League, Kennedy and Bogart. The hip female reporters strode around the newsroom and swore a lot — an F-bomb had to be dropped at every dinner party, it seemed. I had the feeling that any young man who showed up in Levis, loafers and a Harris tweed sportcoat would be hired instantly.

Not everyone was like this — there was the usual newsroom ration of drunks and the copy editors who dined on thermoses of Campbell’s Chunky Chicken soup. There were also admirable professionals, reporters and editors who knew everything about foreign policy or the District of Columbia police and ignored the zeitgeist.

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