News & Politics

Washington Post Employee Confesses to Toaster-Oven Fire in Farewell E-mail

Photograph by Evy Mages

“Also, anyone remember one night in 2010, in the old building, when a Subway sandwich in the seventh-floor kitchen toaster oven started a small fire but no one came forward? It was me.”

So ends the farewell e-mail Washington Post multiplatform editor Julie Bone sent to the entire newsroom Wednesday night. Titled “Later, journalism,” Bone’s e-mail hit all the right notes–she loved working at the Post for nearly a decade, she rues that the pandemic makes it impossible to say goodbye in person, and she offered several ways to stay connected. But it was the cold-case confession that made Bone’s message an instant legend and lit up Post employees’ Twitter accounts Wednesday.

Reached via e-mail, Bone, who left the Post to work for Facebook, says the short answer for why she ‘fessed up is “I had a reputation as a rule-follower, and I’m Catholic.” She elaborates:

In a newsroom, especially mine, the bar is actually pretty high in terms of saying something pithy or heartfelt in those. This is a mass email to writers, after all. I knew the things I wanted to say were going to be genuine but common, unless it had something extra. Also, it’s like, it’s 5 p.m. Everyone’s been working at home for months. People are starved for something to break the monotony. I was carrying the “secret” for 10 years and decided to include it the night before. That building doesn’t even exist anymore (it was torn down to become the gleaming HQ for Fannie Mae), but that fire haunted me all this time because when it happened, I was about three weeks into the job and not hitting it out of the park.

In a follow-up email, Bone fact-checked her first response and suggested an edit, to which Washingtonian agreed because it makes the paragraph flow better.

 

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.

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