The paper’s stable of columnists in those days included not only Murray Kempton and Syd Schanberg and Jim Dwyer, but Sheryl McCarthy and Carole Agus and Gail Collins. And though the play says over and over that everybody wanted to be Jimmy Breslin, let’s just say that’s not the way I remember it.
Newspapering is the greatest, the McAlary character says, ”because you work in a profession that can make the world just a little bit better.“ And I still believe that so strongly that I’m forever arguing with those who only see our mistakes.
Sometimes, I remind them that we only found out about massive problems at Walter Reed because of Anne Hull, Dana Priest and The Washington Post, and about secret prisons, also thanks to Dana and The Washington Post. How did we learn D.C. Mayor Vince Gray’s election was poisoned by illegal campaign contributions? Nikita Stewart and The Post. About Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s alleged ethical lapses? Let’s see, Roz Helderman, Laura Vozzella and The Washington Post.
We know the Department of Justice used security badge access records to track a Fox News reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department thanks to The Washington Post’s Ann E. Marimow. About David Petraeus’ role in drafting the Benghazi talking points thanks to the paper’s Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung. (Where are the women? Here we are.)
And who will take the kind of call Alice McAlary was talking about if newspapers are not there? No one, that’s who. There is no substitute for knocking on doors. There is no substitute for a working press. And just like democracy itself is, as Churchill said, the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried, the press you’ve got is worse than anything except the press you soon might not have.
Melinda Henneberger is a Washington Post political writer and She the People anchor. Follow her on Twitter at MelindaDC.