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Changing Times

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Is a fistfight in a newsroom news? Is it more like a dog biting a man or a man biting a dog?

WaPo editor Henry Allen, 68, is genuinely surprised that his fisticuffs with reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia made news, Michael Calderone reports at politico.com.

"Back when I got into journalism, the idea that a fistfight in a newsroom would turn into a news story was unthinkable," Allen said when reached Monday evening. "The guys in the sports department at the New York Daily News, they had so many, you wouldn't even look up."

The incident and the reaction to it illustrate changing social mores. Allen's punch was a response to a vulgar insult by Roig-Franzia, which in turn was a response to Allen's harsh criticism of another reporter. Once upon a time, a punch would have been considered the appropriate response to such an insult in most of society. Today, most of society expects only a verbal response. Of course, in some depraved subcultures today, the normal response to being "dissed" is a drive-by shooting.

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See, e.g., William Buckley's response to Gore Vidal when Vidal called him a Nazi.

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