Best Reason to Lament Marc Fisher’s New Editing Job

Washington Post Columnist Robert McCartney
Robert McCartney has been doing some good news stories for the Washington Post’s Metro section. He’s written about the foreclosure crisis, funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and the misfortunes of Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry with thoroughness, fairness, evenhandedness, and objectivity. Too bad McCartney is employed as a columnist. In his debut column, McCartney, a former top Metro editor, himself acknowledged the expectations: “Now I’m putting all that even-handedness behind me. After a reasonable amount of reporting and analysis, I’m going to say what I think....[W]e in the Washington area suffer from a chronic shortage of healthy civic outrage.” In the nine months since, McCartney has at least been steady. There’s been a lot of coverage on the serious issues facing the region, and very little veering into some strange obsession—a stunt pulled off by time-tested columnists. For instance: Marc Fisher, McCartney’s predecessor, who brought the complete toolkit to this critical newspaper space. He was curious about everything from ice cream to Mayor Fenty. He could set up arguments and turn phrases in ways that made you remember what he was saying. What’s more, he seemed to get off on pissing people off. People like me—I still haven’t gotten over how Fisher inveighed against the District’s smoking ban! That’s just the point. McCartney is way too nice a man to be a columnist.