The Washington Post recently saw a journalistic battle of a different kind when Style reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia and editor Henry Allen got into a physical altercation. Punches reportedly flew from the reporters until other journalists intervened — and presumably began to try to grab an exclusive on the cause for the fight. Left is a picture of Roig-Franzia and right may or may not be a picture of Allen in an editorial meeting.
Witnesses say that it was Allen who punched Roig-Franzia after the latter came to the defense of reporter Monica Hesse, after Allen told her that it was “the second worst story I have seen in Style in 43 years.” Ok, you got me, what was the worst story?
The question apparently was left unanswered in a room of reporters after Allen went postal. Roig-Franzia was working on the story with Hesse and told Allen not to be such a “c—sucker.” Roig-Franzi reportedly called Allen a “dick” and tore a page from his notebook during a staff meeting preceding the fight. Allen reportedly demanded, “Give me my fucking notebook” and Roig-Franzia complied. It is well known in the business that one reporter does not touch another reporter’s notebook — it is like one cowboy touching another cowboy’s hat.
In his defense, Allen was upset over errors in a piece on a civil war battle that put the battle in the wrong state. (The worst piece in his view apparently was a story on Paul Robeson that was full of errors).
Allen reportedly threw two punches — hitting Roig-Franzi once before Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli jumped in and hit Allen with a chair and did a piledriver on Roig-Franzia. Ok, I made up that last part. He broke up the fight.
It is not clear if Brauchli then announced to the whole newsroom: “The First Rule of the Post Club is You Do Not Talk About the Post Club. The Second Rule of the Post Club is You Do Not Talk About the Post Club.”
Allen may be feeling a bit frisky and carefree: he accepted a buyout from the Post recently and only had a few weeks left on his contract. Allen insists that this is just a sign of the Namby Pamby times that journalists are living in: “Back when I got into journalism, the idea that a fistfight in a newsroom would turn into a news story was unthinkable. The guys in the sports department at the New York Daily News, they had so many, you wouldn’t even look up.”
Indeed, here is an early video from the Post newsroom when Allen started as a new reporter:
. . . and that was just the Food Section.