Post’s Weingarten 2014 Lifetime Achiever

The guy who ‘discovered’ Dave Barry is a humor columnist, editor and Pulitzer-winning feature reporter. Twice.

By Ben Pollock
NSNC Director of Online Media

Gene Weingarten

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post photo by Julia Ewan

Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten has accepted the nomination to be the 2014 recipient of the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award, according to Eric Heyl, president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Weingarten was “quite happy” to learn of the honor, said Heyl, who notified him after conferring with the NSNC board in mid-August. He will accept the plaque at the final banquet of the society’s 38th annual conference, June 26-29, 2014, in Washington. Other conference details will be announced soon.

Weingarten, 61, is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. After 19 years as an editor and staff writer for the newspaper, he accepted a buyout in June 2009 but remains on contract for his column “Below the Beltway.”

In 2010, Weingarten began syndicating the comic strip Barney & Clyde. It’s a collaboration with his son Dan Weingarten and cartoonist David Clark.

Before joining the Post, Gene Weingarten was the editor of Tropic, the Sunday magazine of The Miami Herald. While at Tropic, Weingarten recruited Dave Barry to write humor columns for the Herald, propelling the career of the 2013 Pyle recipient.

To date, Weingarten has twice as many Pulitzers as Barry. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2008 and 2010. The first was for “Pearls Before Breakfast,” where he reported what happened when he set up acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell as a busker in D.C.’s L’Enfant Plaza Metro station for morning rush hour. He then was honored for “Fatal Distraction,” profiling parents who accidentally killed their children by leaving them in parked cars during hot weather.

Weingarten’s books include The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death (1998), Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs (2008), The Fiddler In the Subway: The Story of the World-Class Violinist Who Played for Handouts … And Other Virtuoso Performances by America’s Foremost Feature Writer (2010).

He wrote I’m With Stupid: One Man. One Woman. 10,000 Years of Misunderstanding Between the Sexes Cleared Right Up (2004) with Gina Barreca. The professor of English and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut was a hilarious highlight of NSNC’s June conference in Hartford.

On learning of his honor, Barreca said, “Gene Weingarten is brilliantly hilarious, ridiculously honest and scarily smart. He’s also enthralled by the shocking and the scatological in a way that makes monkeys seem sophisticated while yet somehow remaining adorable and winning Pulitzer Prizes (plural). Is it a surprise, then, that every columnist wants to be Weingarten?”

Though a college dropout, he was awarded a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard University in 1987. He lives in Washington with his wife, Arlene Reidy, a lawyer. His daughter Molly Weingarten is a veterinarian.

Prior to the Herald, he worked for the now-defunct Albany Knickerbocker News, The Detroit Free Press and The National Law Journal. Weingarten said Wikipedia, used in this article, currently has its facts right about him.

The NSNC presents the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award annually to honor a columnist who exemplifies outstanding achievement in the tradition of Ernie Pyle. The early 20th-century newsman wrote about aviation then in its infancy, became a national figure with his travel columns then earned lasting renown as World War II correspondent, living with and writing about military personnel, dying in an attack on a Pacific island in 1945.

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