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Erik Wemple (born August 18, 1964) is a media critic at The Washington Post.
He was raised in Schenectady, New York and attended Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, graduating in 1986. In 1986-87 Wemple taught and coached sports at Trinity Pawling School, in Pawling, New York. In the fall of 1987, he moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue graduate studies at Georgetown University. From January 1999 to November 2000, Wemple wrote the paper's well regarded political column, Loose Lips, after having contributed articles to the paper for a few years. Before becoming editor of Washington City Paper, he was Washington correspondent for Inside.com and CableWorld magazine.
In June 2006, Wemple accepted the Editor-in-Chief position at The Village Voice. A month later, he announced he would not assume the position. He refused to answer reporters' questions as to the reasons behind his change of heart.
In Feb. 2010, Wemple informed the staff of the staff of the Washington City Paper that he was leaving to be the new editor of TBD.com.
Recently, Gawiker Media declared Wemple a "hero", writing that acting "like a deeply embedded anthropologist, Wemple scours Washington media (and, not infrequently, their New York counterparts) for hypocrisy, excess, and corruption. He's the anti-Mike Allen, frequently piercing the Politico's madman's self-inflating bubble of hype at the moment it threatens to blot out the sun."
In his Washington Post blog, Wemple frequently broke news about a libel suit against fellow media scribe Betsy Rothstein and the website Fishbowl DC. Rothstein wrote several posts alleging that a local Washington publicist, Wendy Gordon, was promiscuous and often drunk. In one particular post, a Fishbowl DC blogger wrote: “We actually have a burning and enduring love for Wendy that grows stronger with every week. Kind of like chlamydia."
Rothstein asserted as a defense that she had not libeled Gordon because what she had written was in part satirical. Wemple was the very first to report settlement of the lawsuit, and also the first reporter to whom Gordon spoke, an "exclusive" which he trumpeted on his "Erik Wemple blog" in the Post.
Rothstein countered that Wemple's exhaustive coverage of the case, which Rothstein said was "excessive" and unfair, was driven by earlier negative posts she had published about Wemple at Fishbowl DC, writing that "Wemple does not see how his disdain for FishbowlDC just drips through" while making "decisions he made while writing."
On August 8, 2000, Wemple, while a columnist for the Washington City Paper, wrote a column criticizing Peggy Cooper Cafritz, then a candidate for president of the D.C. Board of Education, opining that a white woman should not run for such a position in a city that is predominately African-American. Cafritz is, in fact, African-American.
Cafritz's son, Zachary Cooper Cafritz, shortly thereafter, wrote a letter to the City Paper's editor, complaining: "Erik Wemple clearly wrote his column lazily and without any research. His errors bring into question his journalistic credibility and the credibility of the paper that chose to print his column. I could do nothing but laugh as I read the paragraph discussing the significance of my mother's being a white woman on the election and on Mayor Williams' policy. I have known my mother for 15 years, and, to the best of my knowledge, she is a black woman."
In 2012, a freelancer writer named Cathy Alter alleged that an article she wrote for the City Paper, and edited by Wemple, was altered by Wemple against her will to incorrectly portray the facts:
- The article in question, "Voyeur Eyes Only," was about a woman named Jennifer Ringley, who had become a sensation by broadcasting her private life over the internet -- a scandal in the pre-YouTube days.:
- [Cathy Alter] met Ringley and liked her, and wrote a favorable profile. This, according to Wemple, was a major violation. The City Paper had what it called its "freak of the week," a person who served as a pinata for the editors and readers. So Wemple altered the copy. Alter was outraged, and told Wemple, to no avail.:
- [Alter] recalls that Wemple was insistent on portraying Ringley, the freak of the week, as fat. "He kept saying 'I was a fat kid and got teased, she'll get over it,' Alter says. The piece refers to Ringley as "a chunky lover of Pooh" -- as in Winnie-the-Pooh. "I definitely did not write that," Alter says.
- "Erik Wemple", brief biography in the People Directory of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN), accessed August 29, 2007. (Inc. hyperlinked archive to "In the News" articles by and about Wemple and his AAN award and honorable mention.)
- Motoko Rich, "Before He Moves In, The Village Voice's Editor Moves On", The New York Times, June 16, 2006, accessed April 11, 2008.
- Erik Wemple, "Inside the Lawsuit Against Fishbowl DC", The Washington Post, January 23, 2013
- Zachary Cooper Caffritz, Letter to the Editor, Washington City Paper, Sept. 1, 2000.
- Mark Judge, Real Clear Politics, March 5, 2012
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