The Death of Newsroom Swagger

Journalism is changing. The Washington Post newsroom brawl shows just how badly some reporters are taking it.

View of the front page of the October 30
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

The offending piece was a USA Today-style “charticle” that riffed on the news that a congressional investigation was leaked. Upon being handed the piece to edit, Allen reportedly deemed the collection of sentences “the second worst” he’s ever seen in his 43 years in journalism.

The reporter told Allen to stop being such a “cocksucker,” and then Allen, a former Marine, clocked him. The Post’s top editor was among those who broke up the fight.

Ever since news broke, the media house of mirrors has been reading all kinds of meaning into the incident. The Washingtonian account read the fisticuff as sort of a Custer’s Last Stand for journalism, the feisty geezer defending the integrity of the profession and knocking out gimmicky infotainment.

Post columnist Gene Weingarten hailed the brawl as a heroic stand for journalism with a pulse: “Hooray that there is still enough passion left somewhere in a newsroom in America for violence to break out between colorful characters in disagreement over the quality of a story.”

Allen, who reportedly was told never to set foot in the newsroom again, feigned shock that so many news organizations have feasted on the story. As he told Politico’s Michael Calderone: “Back when I got into journalism, the idea that a fistfight in a newsroom would turn into a news story was unthinkable,” Allen said when reached Monday evening. “The guys in the sports department at the New York Daily News, they had so many, you wouldn’t even look up.”

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