This is the 22nd in a series of articles about winners of the NSNC’s annual Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award.
By Dave Astor
It’s fitting that Gene Weingarten received our 2014 Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award just a year after Dave Barry won the 2013 Pyle prize. They’re both humorists (though Weingarten is also known for his serious writing) and they have another important connection: Weingarten, when editor of The Miami Herald’s “Tropic” magazine in 1984, hired Barry as a humor columnist – after which Dave’s career went into overdrive.
Plus, Barry and Weingarten – who won two Pulitzers for his Washington Post feature writing – each gave very funny talks when accepting their Pyle honors.
One thing Weingarten said, with a smile, at the NSNC’s 2014 conference in DC: “Well, duh. Of course you gave it [the Pyle award] to me. I live in Washington. Your convention is in Washington. By giving it to me as opposed to someone actually deserving, like Tom Friedman, you won’t have to pay travel expenses.”
Two of his other remarks – comedic and serious – that night:
“I’m going to talk today about one of the least acknowledged but most important tools of the successful columnist, namely, a crippling neurosis bordering on mental illness.”
“Today would have been my father’s 100th birthday. I wish he could be here to see this. My dad lived through World War II. He read Ernie Pyle’s moving dispatches about ordinary heroes defeating the forces of evil, and he grieved when Ernie died on the battlefield.”
Weingarten – who was presented the Pyle prize at Howard University – has been known for his weekly syndicated Washington Post humor column “Below the Beltway.” Also, with his son Dan and David Clark, Gene creates the newspaper comic strip “Barney & Clyde,” about a friendship between “a billionaire and a bum.” And the 65-year-old New York City native has also done wide-ranging online chats under the heading of “Chatological Humor.”
His feature-writing Pulitzers came in 2008 (for his 2007 Post piece about world-class violinist Joshua Bell playing incognito, and being mostly ignored, in a subway station) and in 2010 (for his devastating 2009 Poststory about parents from various socioeconomic levels who accidentally killed their children by forgetting them in cars).
Weingarten joined the Post in 1990 and accepted a buyout in 2009, after which he continued contributing to the paper.