Manuel Roig-Franzia has been a Washington Post staff writer for eight years, but he’s never worked in Washington. Returning from a three-year assignment in Mexico City, he’ll now be writing features for Style and showing up in the newsroom. What will change?
“I can’t go to work in a robe and flip-flops,” he says. “I have to shower.”
Ceci Connolly, his life partner and veteran health-policy writer for the Post, is certain Roig-Franzia will be dressed and scrubbed as he roams the town “finding yarns,” as he says.
Connolly and Roig-Franzia met and fell in love while covering Hurricane Charley in 2004. They teamed up again to cover Hurricane Katrina. When Roig-Franzia became the Post’s Central America correspondent, Connolly took a leave and moved to be with him in Mexico City.
Both are back at an opportune time for the Post. Roig-Franzia becomes one of the best writers on a Style staff that has lost some of its big talent, such as Tamara Jones. Connolly brings years of experience covering politics—including the 2000 Al Gore presidential campaign—and a deep Rolodex to cover the state of healthcare in America and upcoming conflict over reforming the system.
“Too many news organizations cover news like seven-year-olds playing soccer,” she says. “They all glom around the ball. There’s a value to going outside the pack,” which Connolly vows to do.
In Central America, Connolly wrote a series on AIDS and ventured into food and travel writing; Roig-Franzia, a native of Spain, became intrigued with Cuba. “I found it so extraordinarily exotic,” he says. “It’s an island, it’s isolated, it has the intrigue of being run by Castros for a half century. It’s like going back in time.”
In his first month at Style, Roig-Franzia already has written seven features, from a sketch of how Congress botched the vote on the first financial bailout to a profile of a Bataan death-march survivor.
How long can the Post afford to publish long-form journalism, no matter how sweet the prose, when newspapers are moving to short form on the Internet?
“I think features will have a place for a long time,” says Roig-Franzia, “based on the response for the article we do.”
What about Connolly, 45, and Roig-Franzia, 42, marrying?
Says Connolly: “We just never got around to it.”