Apology to Tri-Cities by Famous Writer Still Hilarious Two Decades Later
An award-winning writer once issued an apology to the Tri-Cities.
In 1999, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Dave Barry sent out a sardonic apology after he rubbed the Tri-City Herald the wrong way. Barry, a humor writer, had covered a story about radioactive ants near the Hanford site for his syndicated column in the Miami Herald. Barry was far from the only journalist to cover the story and certainly not the only person to poke some fun at the situation. He drew comparisons to niche B-movie horror films, painting a picture of nuclear monster ants crawling into the light. To be fair, much of the national news media had some laughs at our expense when this happened. But nobody else said that the area "glowed like a Budweiser sign."
The Herald Steps in.
The Tri-City Herald, which seems to have forgiven Barry in the decades since, pointed out positive notes about the area that the humorist seemed to have missed. The example that Barry went to town on was the success of the Tri-City Americans. I can't find a copy of their response, so I'm taking Barry's word on this. For what it's worth, the Tri-City Americans had an incredible 1998-1999 season, where they went 43-23-6. They only won 17 games the previous season.
They also pointed out "booming construction behind the Columbia Center Mall." I moved to Tri-Cities in 2003 so I asked around. You'll have to correct me if I'm wrong, but the Herald could have been referring to Costco's current location or the development in that area in general.
An apology is given.
After the Seattle Times chimed in to offer clarification from authorities on the offensive nature of the phrase "radioactive" and the preferred term "contaminated," Barry offered his apology. In the article from the Times, Michael Turner, a communications specialist at the time, was quoted as saying that Hanford officials find "contaminated tumbleweeds" on a "regular basis." Whether this was a joke or not, the idea of contaminated tumbleweeds is hilarious.
Barry had some more jokes to throw in his non-apology apology, saying, "Before you report that an area has radioactive ants, always check to see if it also has a winning minor-league hockey team."
Everyone seems to be getting along these days, with the Herald featuring several positive articles about Dave Barry in recent years, so there's your happy ending.