The short excerpt below is about their eternal & elusive search for a quality female sports reporter or columnist who'd actually stay in sports, and NOT migrate to other sections of the paper, notably, the Style section.
(Or, recognize a vacuum in the media sports world and make like Christine Brennan - http://www.christinebrennan.com/ -and leave for USA Today, while simultaneously becoming a ubiquitous, omnipresent author, media expert & star on figure skating -a sports I'm pretty knowledgable about- leaving the Post in the rear-view mirror.
Personally, I'm sort of hot-and-cold on Christine as a writer, as her good stuff is extremely good, but it's a little too infrequent for me, but I seem to be in a minority since she's still toiling at USA Today, which gives her a great national perch and the latitude to do speeches and make personal appearances.
Her USAT columns are at http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/brennan/index.htm)
The Style section has long been the golden section of the Post where writers really get the license to write in detail about subjects and personalities that they're curious about.
Or, more to the Post's p.o.v. -and the way that things are and branded in Washington- hope you'll first hear about in its pages.
It's where, literally one or two very good pieces gets you the kind of attention that leads to you getting in Vanity Fair, GQ or Esquire.
Or, in Rachel Nichols' unique situation, the Post was so desperate to keep her -so that they'd have more than zero females- at the newspaper as a reporter (she's been the beat reporter covering the Capitals hockey team among others), they even let her write about the team while living in New York for weeks and months on end.
Naturally, she repaid their bending over backwards by jumping to ESPN, despite only being very, very average.
Thursday Sept. 22, 2005
The author of this okay-not-great piece, Linda Robertson, is the very good Miami Herald reporter that I really hoped the Washington Post would hire a few years ago during one of WaPo Sports Editor George Solomon's occasional "there aren't enough women in the sports dept." harangues, wherein the Post, supposedly, would conduct a national talent search for a talented female Sports writer.
But the first rule for the Post is always raid your competitors first, addition by subtraction, so instead of having a real national search for a much-needed infusion of talent and fresh air, they hired away Jennifer Frey from the New York Times, as hinted at by The Washingtonian magazine.
How utterly predictable!
As soon as I read her first few columns, I knew in no time at all, she'd be angling for the Style section as soon as she got a desk on 15th Street, N.W.
It was no time at all before Frey's name started appearing frequently in the Style section and not at all in sports section.
My prescience proved crystal clear, witness this June 9th, 2001 set-up:
Focus on a Rarer Beauty:Former Fashion Photographer Views
Albinism Through a New Lens
By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
She was standing at a bus stop on Park Avenue, all white-blond hair and pale, pale skin and giggly smiles. She had to be about 13, or not much older. Rick Guidotti, high-fashion photographer, a man who spent his days snapping Cindy and Claudia and Kate, remembers looking at the girl and thinking: "Now, that is beauty. So much life. So much happiness. That girl is gorgeous."
This time though, the Orioles beleagured bullpen held on...
I started noticing more and more often that Rachel Nichols, a very average writer in my opinion, but someone with a real talent for acting like every 50/60-ish male sportswriter's dream of a sports-loving niece -i.e. "Uncle Tony" Kornheiser!- started only doing big events like Wimbledon and the French Open and, insidiously, becoming an ESPN insider.
She still had no original insight to speak of when asked questions, but that didn't stop her from constantly being asked to comment.
Understand, I don't mind the clearly ambitious, as long as they bring something to the party, that isn't already there, but doesn't genuine talent and experience count for anything?
Five minutes after reading Nichols or listening to her, I couldn't remember anything of note she'd said or written. Zero.
(Certainly not like the situation with former Hoosier Jason Whitlock, who says things so interesting that you're thinking about them days later when you least expect it.)
Everytime I look at the Post sports section now, albeit online from South Florida, I ask myself,
The Post could use a Maureen Dowd-type, STAT!!!
Posted on Thu, Sep. 22, 2005
HURRICANE KATRINA NEW ORLEANS
Wuerffel searching for children he mentored
BY LINDA ROBERTSON
Danny Wuerffel is trying to find a boy named Heath.
And a boy named Walter, and a boy named Kevin, and Kevin's mother, and a boy named Choicy, and Choicy's siblings.
They could be anywhere from Utah to North Carolina. They could be dead.
They should be home, but home is the drowned city of New Orleans. They should be in school, but their school is submerged. They should be playing football, but instead they are scattered who knows where. Or worse.
Wuerffel, the quarterback turned missionary, is frantically searching for the families who lived in the Desire housing project. Until Hurricane Katrina devastated the poorest section of the poorest major city in the United States, Wuerffel was development director of Desire Street Ministries and the Desire Street Academy for boys.
That's Desire as in A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams' play. Now, just like Blanche DuBois, Wuerffel is dependent on the kindness of strangers as he organizes a temporary boarding school in the Florida Panhandle, finds housing for the evacuees and raises money to keep the ministry solvent in the short term and to rebuild in the long term.
''It seems overwhelming, when I think of all the work to be done,'' he said from his cellphone a few days ago while driving to Gainesville. ``These are the times when we learn the difference between wants and needs. We lost everything, but not our spirit.''
The same traits that distinguished Wuerffel as a Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida are serving him now. In the middle of turmoil, he is a calm leader.
''Nothing hardly ever rattles Danny Wuerffel,'' said his former coach, Steve Spurrier, during a conference call last week from South Carolina. ``He has such a sincere belief in God that things will work out.''
But Wuerffel admits he has wept often since the hurricane uprooted half a million people. Sometimes he cries at 3 a.m., when he can't sleep. ''I picture how people suffered, how they died, the fear and the chaos, and it makes me very sad,'' he said.
Sometimes he cries when he's on the phone and can't get the answers he seeks. Sometimes when he visits churches or shelters and can't comfort the homeless. Sometimes when he's in his car and can't get his mind off the lost boys. Heath was an eighth grader at the academy, a sweet, undaunted kid. Wuerffel paid for his scholarship.
''We've had no word on Heath,'' said Wuerffel, who has located about 60 percent of the 192 boys enrolled in the academy. ``My heart will be broken if we don't find him.''
Wuerffel's house was flooded to the ceiling. A friend paddled by it in a boat five days ago and reported that the water had receded to five feet. Wuerffel lived a block from the 17th Street Canal levee that was breached. He and wife Jessica, 21-month-old son Jonah and their dog Chester fled in their car with only a few changes of clothes, some pictures, a video camera, vital documents, two pillows and a Bible. They rode out the storm in Natchez, Miss., and are now staying at his parents' home in Destin.
His alma mater has lent a hand. The university donated $50,000 from TV proceeds of the Gators' first football game, and is allowing Wuerffel to use a camping area on university land near Niceville for the academy. Wuerffel hopes to round up as many students as possible and resume school next week. With any luck, they could put together a football team. They were a week away from beginning their first high school season in New Orleans on Aug. 29 when the storm hit.
At the moment there are no textbooks, let alone uniforms, but, as always, Wuerffel sees the silver lining. The boys will be under the ministry's supervision 24 hours a day whereas back home they were often returning to unstable households and the temptations of drug dealers.
Wuerffel's faith has been tested. But he clings to hope the way his neighbors clung to their chimneys.
''On the one hand there's a sense of loss, but also an unexplainable confidence because people are experiencing the love of others in incredible ways,'' he said. ``Ultimately, God is doing something good. My sorrow, my joy -- all the emotions have done nothing but draw me closer to God.''
Wuerffel, 31, chose the road less taken.
He seemed too sensitive for the brutal game of football. Whenever the Gators scored and everyone else went berserk, Wuerffel clasped his hands in prayer and glanced heavenward with a beatific smile. He was nicknamed Danny Wonderful.
His greatest glory as a player occurred in the Superdome, in the 1997 Sugar Bowl, when he led the Gators to the school's only national title in a 52-20 rout of Florida State.
But he found his greatest fulfillment in a different part of New Orleans -- the forgotten and forsaken part.
Wuerffel first heard about pastor Mo Leverett's church when he was a rookie backup for the NFL's Saints. One day he went to have a look at the Ninth Ward neighborhood. He figured the dilapidated apartment buildings were condemned and vacant. Then he saw a little girl carrying a doll walk out a front door.
''I realized people were actually living there and it shocked me,'' he said of the project.
Two years ago he left behind a life of plenty and privilege as a pro athlete and immersed himself in the impoverished community. He and Jessica, a former social worker, have seen the ministry grow. Desire Street built the school, a gym and a pediatric clinic.
All are underwater now.
The people who had the least were punished the most. Kids who had one parent have none to take care of them. Small businessmen who struggled to break even are wiped out.
While most of America gaped in horror at the scenes of desperation on rooftops and degradation in the Superdome, Wuerffel was not surprised.
''Our families deal with neglect and violence and hunger year-round, but it doesn't make the news,'' he said. ``We have a serious problem in the inner cities of our country. It can't be quarantined. It spills outward. This time everyone could see it on national TV.''
In the aftermath, at the juncture of blame and emptiness, Wuerffel sees hope. Where others saw blight, he saw a little girl carrying a doll. Her imagination had not been crushed. Neither has his.
''Katrina actually means cleansing,'' he said. ``We can do greater good than ever before. We can make this place better than it ever was. Katrina can be a catalyst for compassion and change.''
As the floodwaters recede, Wuerffel acknowledges he's up against a society in which most Americans will turn their attention back to celebrity gossip and Monday Night Football.
Wuerffel isn't giving up. If there's one thing engrained in him from those years in the huddle, it is how to come from behind.
For information on how to help, check http://www.desirestreet.org/.