Despite what you might be seeing on Twitter or reading in Politico Playbook, Washington Post politics reporter Josh Dawsey won’t be the first reporter in space for two reasons. The first is that a Japanese journalist went to space in 1990. The second is that his Post colleague David Fahrenthold didn’t really start a petition seeking to blast Dawsey beyond the Kármán Line.
What actually happened was Fahrenthold found a piece of paper that he and a bunch of others—Phil Rucker, Robert Costa, Abby Phillip, Dan Balz—had signed before everyone was sent home last year. Fahrenthold says he remembers signing the paper, but doesn’t remember why or who wanted it. He decided to retroactively turn it into a petition to send Dawsey to space.
However, Fahrenthold doesn’t think Dawsey would be the best reporter for that assignment, saying the roaming charges from Dawsey’s phone bill would cost more than the rocket fuel.
“I chose Josh because I know from experience that he can take a joke, and I didn’t want to offend anybody else by making them think we wanted them to leave,” Fahrenthold says. “He’s the most popular man in the newsroom, so he would not think someone was making fun of him.”
When he made the sign on Monday, Fahrenthold did not know that Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos would be in town this week as a panelist for the National Cathedral’s “Our Future in Space” forum.
This wasn’t the first time Fahrenthold pranked Dawsey. A few years ago, Fahrenthold got a book of “100 poems about 100 birds” in his newsroom mail. As he was getting ready to toss it in the recycling bin, he had a better idea. He grabbed a Post-it, scribbled “See me about this — Marty,” stuck the note to the book, and left the book on Dawsey’s desk. Marty Baron is the former executive editor of the Post.
“I told people I’d done this. We were all waiting to see what would happen, if Josh would be freaked out about it,” Fahrenthold says. “But no, he just calmly picked it up and walked into Marty’s office with this book of poetry about birds.” (Though Fahrenthold was not in the office with Dawsey to witness the conversation, he says Baron “seemed confused,” and that the group was in a circle “about to hyperventilate laughing” when Dawsey returned.)
So, for now, Dawsey won’t be aboard the next Blue Origin launch—at least if Fahrenthold gets a say.
“Josh owes me a feed on a story that I’m writing right now,” Fahrenthold says. “Especially now, Josh Dawsey cannot go to space.”