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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Saturday, December 21, 2002
12:32 PM

Pot, Kettle Said To Be Black... Leonard Shapiro briefly faults Bryant Gumbel for screwing up his Augusta story, an interview with Martha Burk. Shapiro notes (finally) that Gumbel did not disclose his membership at the male-only Burning Tree Country Club. The item is so short I think I'll run all of it:

Bryant Gumbel did the interview with Augusta National nemesis Martha Burk on "Real Sports" the other night, and both acquitted themselves rather well -- tough questions followed by perceptive answers.

Gumbel is an avid golfer, a frequent participant in celebrity pro-ams and belongs to a number of golf clubs. One of them happens to be Burning Tree in Bethesda, which has never had female members and has never allowed women to play the course. He was remiss in not letting viewers know of his affiliation with Burning Tree.

If Shapiro thinks that was a tough interview, he must be a pretty sensitive guy. As I said when Gumbel's Real Sports interview ran, it was mainly a puff piece. There were maybe three moments when you could say he challenged Burk: First, he commented that you can't say people who disagree with Burk are sexist. Second, he asked why a website Burk has created against Augusta members isn't "extortion." Third, and the only one that amounted to a true challenge, he argued that the difference between her gender-dispute on the one hand and racial issues on the other is that she needn't fear for her safety. That was a good issue to raise, but it lasted for all of 30-40 seconds. And that was the longest period of "tough questions" in what was maybe a 10-minute piece.

Of course, the real problem is that Shapiro did not cover himself in glory during his own Augusta story, which was embarassingly one-sided and included at least one allegation that's probably false: Augusta, he claimed, gets an unfair tax break. Probably not true, according to a local TV reporter from WAGT whose queries to Shapiro went unanswered.

Last of all, I'm not positive but I expect that as a Post sports reporter, chances are pretty good that Shapiro has played the course, a perk of the beat typically offered by the club over the years. If so, I think it's fair to ask why Shapiro, as reflected in his reporting, suddenly thinks the club's membership policy is a crime against equality. It's not like the guy didn't have a column until 2002.

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