City Desk

Chatter: The King of Sting

What you said about what we said last week

We are not, it turns out, the only fans of Russ Ptacek, the WUSA9 investigative reporter whose bombastic stings of racist cab drivers and health-code violators have enlivened D.C’s TV news landscape over the last year. Commenting on Will Sommer’s profile of Ptacek, I watch news wrote, “Ptacek’s reports are entertaining and different from the usual boring crap the other stations generally put on TV. WUSA is taking chances, which is what you do when you’re in the cellar. They seem to be the only station in town willing to break the mold.”

One past viewer of Ptacek’s reports, from his years working in Kansas City, expressed signs of Ptacek withdrawal. Jean Robart wrote, “I hope the viewers in the D.C. area appreciate him for what he is—an intelligent man who really likes his job, and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.”

Alas, some of Ptacek’s old nemeses also emerged in the comments. In 1991, after Ptacek aired a story on the homophobic Westboro Baptist Church in Lawrence, Kan., the group outed Ptacek, who is gay, via a fax campaign. “Like most reporters, [Ptacek is] a liar,” Jonathan Phelps commented. “The tale regarding [Westboro founder] Fred Phelps, Sr., is mostly fiction. The only correct information is that [Ptacek] was a rabid sodomite activist from rabid sodomite activist central: Lawrence, Kansas.” H’Okay. Take it away, commenter JH: “What Mr. Phelps above fails to mention...is that they are extremely guilty of ignoring whichever passages of the Old and New Testament are inconvenient to their theology of hatred and abuse (and their glee at hurting others), and of taking other passages completely out of context to pretend that the Bible is in any way indicative of God hating his own creations.”

Back in Washington, WUSA was pleased enough with our profile to rib Ptacek about it during an on-air segment. Ptacek’s take on the coverage of the coverage? “A bit like looking into a mirror, facing a mirror, reflecting another mirror,” he wrote on Facebook.

Broadband-Aid

D.C. boasts one of the most impressive citywide broadband networks in the country—a great thing, except that District residents are limited in their ability to directly access it due to the city’s agreements with Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon. Reacting to Aaron Wiener’s Housing Complex column about Washington’s Community Access Network, kob wrote, “I do understand why commercial providers would want to curb D.C.’s ability to expand this service and make it more accessible. What I don’t understand is why DC agreed to these provisions.” Pinwdc agreed. “No fiber is available in my neighborhood in Northwest and the no-compete agreement gives the big guys no incentive to invest in the infrastructure. Basically screwed twice. ‘One City’ seems to have lots of drawbridges in the ‘up’ position, and closed gates.”

Reader John offered one way out. “One common practice is to force telecoms to make their infrastructure available to other companies…This drives prices way down, and many companies that start out this way ultimately make their own infrastructure investments.”

Free Radicals

Readers would do well to cut out and save last week’s item on gratis restaurant offerings that involve more than bread and butter. Several commenters were kind enough to offer some addenda. “Peanut butter chocolate fudge at Ray’s The Steaks—the perfect amount of sweet after so much savory,” wrote Elizabeth. And one from Mike: “Mari Vanna provides a small bread board with both a raisin and rye-ish bread accompanied by green onions, radishes, salt, and olive oil. Nice for snacking with drinks while waiting for the meal.”

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