The Washington Post published its much-anticipated piece on Dave's pizza festival today. You may have been one of the now FORTY MILLION people who saw the clip of Dave speaking with the reporter who quarterbacked the piece:
Dave's video blew up so much that I legitimately forgot they were writing an article. Or maybe I thought they wouldn't? I guess you sorta have to when 40 million people know it's in the works. But given the fanfare, I thought I'd take a quick read of the piece that launched a thousand tweets.
However, the first sentence was such an absolute disaster that I had to take a drink of water. I mean this with all sincerity: the first sentence of the WaPo piece on Dave's Pizzafest may be the worst first sentence ever to make it to print in a major western newspaper. I understand that in journalism, the lede is meant to answer the five W's and hook us in quickly. But the writers of this article sound like they shotgunned a 24 oz BANG energy and then dictated their words to save their own lives.
Try to read this:
The main thing Maggie DeMarco Mieles knew about Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy before she agreed to take part in his One Bite Pizza Festival this weekend in New York was that he had given her father’s pizzeria a stellar review in 2018, years before the legendary Domenico DeMarco died. - Washington Post
- Carman, Tim and Heil, Emily. "Pizzerias navigate buzz, backlash around Dave Portnoy’s pizza festival." The Washington Post, 22 September 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2023/09/22/dave-portnoy-one-bite-pizza-festival-critics/. Accessed 22 September 2023.
(When you quote from THE Washington Post, you break out the dress blues of citations. Went full MLA here. Hope I got it right. Been a long, long time.)
Guys. What are we doing here. How on earth did that sentence—and I use that word generously—pass undetected beneath the exacting microscope of the editing team? It's been a while since I did any major linguistic deconstruction, so give me a little rope here. But let's throw on some surgical gloves and scrub in for what proves to be a messy procedure. I have two main complaints:
1) Subject Choice
"The main thing" is your subject? Come on. Let's give Maggie the ball to run point! Humans always make for better drivers of sentences than vague references to a coming clarifier (which, in this case, doesn't come for WEEKS.) Look how far we have to jog just to figure out what that main thing is! Turns out, that "main thing" is Dave's glowing review of Di Fara. But we have to wade through a bog of exposition before our brains can finally connect those dots. By which point, I'm already tired. Christ, are newspaper people trying to seppuku their own industry? Give us, the readers, a chance! Don't shut our brains down in the FIRST SENTENCE OF THE ARTICLE.
Maggie DeMarco Mieles knew Dave Portnoy as the [handsome, influential, discerning] internet pizza reviewer who gave her father's slice a stellar review in 2018.
Let's start there. I'd read more about Maggie. I'd read more about Dave! Hell, you can smell the pizza inviting you in to finish the article. Warm, welcoming, clean, simple.
2) Details, Details, Details
"Barstool Sports founder… One Bite Pizza Festival… this weekend… New York… her father's pizzeria… 2018… years before… legendary… died…"
Did these writers get abused with pop quizzes growing up? Who can possibly digest information this dense? It's like making someone take a gigantic fistful of vitamins, fish oil, iron, magnesium, calcium, and biotin in one swallow. What's the rush! The article is LONG! You guys took your time through four paragraphs of old Dave jokes you didn't like. Why the torrential downpour of names, dates, titles, and family trees off the first whistle? You tried to cram five George R.R. Martin books of lineage into a single sentence.
All this does make me sad about print media and journalism in general. Isn't there a good deal happening in the world? Maybe there isn't. Maybe they're scraping the barrel right now. The Ukraine war has been beaten to death, nobody wants to read about Biden on either side… I guess Dave's Pizzafest is worth devoting 1000 words to. What a world.
PS- Bezos, if you're reading this, I have no beef with you. Team Beez over Elon all day (I don't really mean that. I drive a Tesla.) But I do prefer your rockets. (I don't mean that either. SpaceX makes your rocket look like a minivan.)
PPS- The only reason I wrote this blog was to curry favor with Dave.