Raspberry’s Retirement Big Boon to Robinson

William Raspberry retires—Long Live Gene Robinson!

By: Harry Jaffe

Vernon and Ann Jordan threw an A-list dinner party—peppered with the Washington Post elite—at their Massachusetts Heights home for departed Post columnist Bill Raspberry. But the subtext of the evening was Gene Robinson, who some see as Raspberry’s successor.

Among the Post brass were publisher Bo Jones, editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt, executive editor Len Downie, Style editor Deb Heard, and Metro columnist Courtland Milloy.

No company chief Don Graham. No Phil Bennett, the managing editor.

The guests sipped drinks on the terrace overlooking the pool; waiters served many courses—including beef tenderloin—in the main dining room.

Raspberry, whose last column ran in December, told the gathering that it was easier for him to leave his column after 39 years now that younger columnists have emerged—like Gene Robinson.

But Robinson is no Bill Raspberry, the Post’s first African-American columnist. Raspberry wrote often on social and educational issues, often from a black perspective. Robinson’s columns range around the globe, in geography and subject matter—and his perspective is rarely racial.

But the loss of Raspberry is Robinson’s gain. The number of papers that buy Robinson’s column jumped from 40 to 138 when Raspberry’s stopped. Says Alan Shearer of the Washington Post Writers Group: “The lion’s share of editors who had Raspberry switched to Gene.”

At the Jordan party, Raspberry toasted Robinson; next time Robinson might want to return the favor.