Tom Sherwood on what he tells journalism students when asked about making Journalism a career:
I tell every journalism student intern that I meet that one thing about being journalist, it opens doors to everything and anything that you want to see or do. I mean, I’ve been places and seen things . . . I never would have access to had I not fallen into the news business.”
Andy Ockershausen: This is Our Town. This is Andy Ockershausen, starting part of what we hope will be a long fifth season. We are especially, especially… I mean this because I’ve been trying to get this guy for two years, and he finally agreed to do it, to be part of Our Town, because he’s such a big part of Our Town. That’s my friend, and ex-neighbor, and a guy I’ve admired for so many years. Welcome to Our Town, Tom Sherwood.
Tom Sherwood: I see you had to read my name, so, so much for that introduction.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, I could have called you Tom intro.
Sherwood: Well, that’s true. Yeah, Intro Tom.
Andy Ockershausen: Intro Tom.
Tom Sherwood: Thank you very much for having me. I’m sorry I couldn’t come. I was busy in TV, but I’m happy to be here today.
Atlanta and South Carolina | Tom Sherwood’s Southern Family
Andy Ockershausen: Now, he was a TV guy and he’s still a TV guy as far as I’m concerned, because they miss him. Tom has a new life, and I’m so delighted that he stayed in our town, because he could have moved on. Tom, you’re a media guy. You grew up in a lot of media. How did you ever get an accent, like a southern accent?
Tom Sherwood: Well, having my mother give birth to me in Atlanta helped. I’m a southern family, through thick and thin. Family members came from South Carolina. I think they were indebted people from England, who came over to America to-
Andy Ockershausen: To pay off the debt.
Sherwood: To pay off the debts.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh yeah.
Tom Sherwood: And some of them… My great-
Andy Ockershausen: Was it Oglethorpe, or something like that.
Sherwood: Yeah, it wasn’t any name like that. It’s Sherwood. But anyways, yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Sherwood Forest.
Tom Sherwood’s Distinct Voice
Tom Sherwood: I have nothing to do with my voice. My brother, he’s a year older. He has a completely different voice.
Andy Ockershausen: People recognize the voice, Tom, of course because you’ve been in broadcast air for years, and years, and years.
Sherwood: Yes, I would never rob a bank-
Andy Ockershausen: With a TV career.
Tom Sherwood: The police will say, “Just go pick up Sherwood,” because they would know what the voice was.
Andy Ockershausen: Why would a young boy from Atlanta, Georgia… How did you end up here? You went to high school and college in Georgia?
On Growing Up in Atlanta, Georgia and Working for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Sherwood: Well, I went to high school, and I kind of went to college. I think I was a freshman for six years at Georgia State. It didn’t really work out.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s in Atlanta, right?
Tom Sherwood: Yeah, we have very similar things. You got your start as an intern, or an office clerk at WMAL?
Andy Ockershausen: I got started at the bottom.
Sherwood: Right. Well, right out of high school-
Andy Ockershausen: Right out of high school.
Tom Sherwood: I worked as a copy boy-
Andy Ockershausen: Eastern High School.
Sherwood: For The Atlanta Constitution.
Andy Ockershausen: There you go, a great, great newspaper.
Tom Sherwood: Yes. I saw an ad in The Atlanta Constitution, “Copy boys wanted,” they didn’t hire girls. I was a department store called Richs, which is like Woody’s here in town. I looked up, and I could see The Atlanta Constitution sign. I thought, “This is kind of cool. I’ll go see if I can work at the newspaper.” They said, “Can you start tonight?”
Andy Ockershausen: That is incredible.
Sherwood: In 1964, right out of high school. They say, “Can you start tonight?” I said, “Sure,” I had nothing else to do. So, that’s how my career started.
Andy Ockershausen: How can get a job off the street at one of the great newspapers in the world?
Tom Sherwood: I was very persuasive. No, the fact was I could start that night. They needed me.
Andy Ockershausen: What’d they pay you? $15.00 a week?
Sherwood: $1.25 an hour.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, but that was good money when you didn’t have any.
Tom Sherwood: Well, it was the minimum wage. So, I wouldn’t know if it was good money or not, but I lived on it.
Andy Ockershausen: But, a great newspaper though, Tom.
Ralph McGill – The AJC and Civil Rights
Sherwood: Yes. Ralph McGill was-
Andy Ockershausen: How many years-
Tom Sherwood: Ralph McGill was the Publisher.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my God.
Sherwood: He [Ralph McGill] confronted all of the Civil Rights demons. The paper led on Civil Rights.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah.
Tom Sherwood: Of course, Atlanta was the center of the Civil Rights movement. Julian Bond, John Lewis. I was right there across the street from them.
Andy Ockershausen: And Atlanta led the way, to my knowledge-
Sherwood: Yes, well of course, we had Lester Maddox, too. He’d be the arch conservative who had a restaurant, and had pick ax handles at the door. So he said if any demonstrators come into his store, his customers would pick up the pick ax handles and chase them out.
Andy Ockershausen: Listen, you had a great education, just being born and raised in Atlanta. That’s an education.
Advice to Journalism Students About Being a Journalist: “it opens doors to everything and anything that you want to see and do.”
Tom Sherwood: Right. That’s true, but as you know just being in the news business… I tell every journalism student intern that I meet that one thing about being journalist, it opens doors to everything and anything that you want to see or do. I mean, I’ve been places and seen things-
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Sherwood: I never would have access to had I not fallen into the news business.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, you know then… I mean everything you’re saying, it brings back so many memories. I hear it from . . .
Tom Sherwood: You have more memories than I do.
Andy Ockershausen: As you know, I started my life working for The Evening Star newspaper-
Andy Ockershausen: In their Broadcast Division. I know the newspaper, and I knew how great The Star was. I knew how great The Washington Post was. This town had another newspaper called The News. This was a really newspaper town, like Atlanta had three or four papers at one time.
Tom Sherwood: Yes, but that was long ago and far away now, because all of my newspapers- I’m holding up my phone for . . .
Andy Ockershausen: You ruined the newspaper business with your TV career.
Tom Sherwood Left The Post for WRC Because . . .
Tom Sherwood: People ask me, I was working at The Washington Post in 1989. I went to work for NBC Channel Four, WRC, before, people said, “Why did you quit The Washington Post with it’s international. . .
Andy Ockershausen: That’s a good question, Tom.
Sherwood: reputation to work for a TV station that chases ambulances and fires?” I said simply, “They doubled my salary.” It’s serious. They doubled my salary. My son at the time was 11, and I told Don Graham I couldn’t afford to work at The Post. He said, “Well, we’ll raise your salary over the next six months,” and he gave me this schedule to get my salary up. I said, “But by then, I’ll be earning even more in TV. I have to take this risk.” So, I signed a contract with Channel 4, which said that if didn’t work out, I could go back to The Post in six months.
Andy Ockershausen: And The Post agreed to that, I’m sure.
Tom Sherwood: Well, I don’t know if they did or not.
Andy Ockershausen: They wanted you back, Tom.
Sherwood: Well, I was the head of the union for two years.
Andy Ockershausen: Who was your City Editor at The Post?
Tom Sherwood: There was a whole list of them.
Andy Ockershausen: Coleman?
Sherwood: Milton Coleman and Bob Woodward was one of the Metro Editors.
Andy Ockershausen: Was he?
Tom Sherwood: Milton Coleman, yes. When I started covering the DC Council. Not the City Council, the DC Council.
Andy Ockershausen: For Channel 4, or do you mean for The Post?
Sherwood: For The Post, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, but it’s a good question. The Post is such a powerhouse, and WRC was one of the five television stations. But, The Post was one at the time, it was only The Post.
Tom Sherwood: That’s correct. The Star was around, but it was fading fast.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, they were going fast.
Andy Ockershausen: You know, television killed The Star in an afternoon. The afternoon papers can’t make it because of television delivery.
Tom Sherwood: Right, across the country. That’s why, and the Internet is killing print media, or certainly changing it. There are very few papers that are making money beyond The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.
Andy Ockershausen: You basically did everything for Channel 4 that you were doing for The Post, only making more money.
On Starting in TV
Sherwood: That’s correct.
Andy Ockershausen: How did you like. . .
Tom Sherwood: And I had to put on a nicer tie.
Andy Ockershausen: A nicer face, too.
Sherwood: Yes, well someone said the old classic line, “You have a face for radio.”
Andy Ockershausen: You did.
Tom Sherwood: You know, I did have to go to a consultant the first month on TV.
Andy Ockershausen: So you trained. I could tell.
Sherwood: Well, I went out to Oklahoma. I was in one of those states in the middle of the country that’s flat. The guy who wrote to the editors back at Channel 4 said, “Well-” and he told me this, he said, “Sherwood, you’re good on TV.” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “Well, you’re good on TV because you’re not good.” I said, “What the hell does that mean?” He said, “Well-”
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, I know what he’s saying.
Tom Sherwood: “You’re not really a TV face. You have this southern voice, slow. So, people see you on TV and they say this guy must know what he’s talking about because he’s not polished.” I said, “I’ll take it.”
Andy Ockershausen: I know what’s he saying.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Authentic.
Andy Ockershausen: But you came on the air and you were different. You were not one of those pretty boy anchor people that grew up in the television business. You’re a reporter.
Tom Sherwood: I had to go to Safeway to learn how to buy hairspray. I still can buy a cheap Aqua Velva, or Aqua-something… Net. Aqua Net. It’s the cheapest hairspray.
Andy Ockershausen: What a life. Tom Sherwood, it’s incredible. We’re hearing things. I’ve known you so well for years. Admire, everything you’ve done, I’ve never heard these stories before.
Sherwood: That’s because reporters ask questions. We don’t normally answer them. It’s very-
Andy Ockershausen: Remember, this is not an interview.
Tom Sherwood: There’s one more nervous than a reporter answering questions.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah.
Sherwood: We love to ask questions. We will ask anything, and I’ve done it-
Andy Ockershausen: Always.
Tom Sherwood: With everyone. But, I don’t like answering.
Andy Ockershausen: Tom, I keep telling you this is not an interview. This is a discussion between two friends about our town.
Sherwood: Yes, and that’s what I would tell people to get them to talk.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah . . .
Tom Sherwood: I know all the tricks, Mr. Ockershausen.
Andy Ockershausen: You try to do it for the record. I’m trying to do it for it keep my life.
Sherwood: All right, go ahead.
Andy Ockershausen: Tom Sherwood, it’s incredible what you have done, and what you have meant. I know what this man is telling you about, because I’ve been through it with radio voices and sometimes bad voices made great reporters, or great performers. That’s what happened to you on TV.
Tom Sherwood: True.
Andy Ockershausen: So we’ll talk to Tom Sherwood. We’ll be right back after this important break, Tom. Thank you.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, along with Janice Ockershausen who’s really responsible for all that you’re doing here, Tom, to talk about Our Town, and to talk to Tom Sherwood, whose been a major, major figure in our town for many years. Tom, you’re getting old, brother.
In the Navy at the Navy Yard – A Yeoman’s Life
Tom Sherwood: Well, I was here in 1968 for the riots, but I was in the US Navy at the Navy Yard.
Andy Ockershausen: Our Navy, correct?
Sherwood: Yes, it was our Navy. The only Navy I know about. I’d sneaked off the base to go downtown to see the riots, and then-
Andy Ockershausen: Sneak back.
Tom Sherwood: Well, yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Your old Navy base doesn’t exist like it used to. Have you been down to the so-called Navy Yard very recently?
Sherwood: Well, I know the Navy yard neighborhood-
Andy Ockershausen: You moved.
Tom Sherwood: But the Navy yard is still pretty much there. They still have the wall. The building where I worked- and I was only a Yeoman, third class.
Andy Ockershausen: Right, a writer.
Sherwood: No, my only job was to make sure at the Computer Institute where I worked, that I’d make sure every morning for all the officers that came for the school, that the coffee was hot and the Krispy Kreme donuts were there and I had not eaten too many of them.
Andy Ockershausen: Of course. . .
Tom Sherwood: That’s how I served the nation in the Navy.
Andy Ockershausen: Tom, one, incidentally you lived down in that southwest, but you lived in northwest. When I used to see you on the street or around the street, you were a big part of northwest to me because you reported on it.
Sherwood: A little tiny street called . . . Place.
Andy Ockershausen: And then you left us, Tom. You moved down in southwest.
On Moving to Southwest DC Before it Became The Wharf
Tom Sherwood: Right, in 2007.
Andy Ockershausen: You thought you were downgrading, and you actually upgraded.
Sherwood: Right, well you know I had been… Mayor Tony Williams at the time had stood there on a boat in the Washington Channel and said, “We are going to rebuild the Washington waterfront.” So when I started getting old I said, “Well I’m going to need a place to retire.” I had a house here in Tenleytown with a yard-
Andy Ockershausen: Right, you liked Tenleytown. You wrote about it all the time.
Tom Sherwood: But it had a yard and steps, and so my new thing for retirement was I want a new place, but I want no steps and no yard work. So I went down to southwest, well before all the Wharf was built, 10 years before. I said, “I think I’ll move down here.” My son thought I was crazy. He said, “There’s nothing down there.”
Andy Ockershausen: And he was right.
Sherwood: And I said, “But there will be.”
Andy Ockershausen: You’re right.
Tom Sherwood: Which is kind of my philosophy, always looking to the future rather than focusing on the past.
Andy Ockershausen: Tom, everything you’re saying, I’ve visualized because we were big down with Ft. McNair with the Army brass and so forth.
Tom Sherwood: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: The only thing I knew, I thought it was a Safeway store. It was down there at Fourth Street.
The Cantina Marina
Tom Sherwood: The Cantina Marina, did you ever go there? The outdoor bar on the water?
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely. We love that.
Sherwood: My son dated girls there.
Andy Ockershausen: He loved the Marina.
Sherwood: That’s the only thing he knows about southwest. I said, “Well that ought to be enough for you.”
Andy Ockershausen: It was a wonderful little bar.
Tom Sherwood: But it’s a great space, and now I can walk five minutes and I’m at the brand new Wharf, the new four buildings were being built.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, God.
Sherwood: I can walk to the National-
Andy Ockershausen: There’s no more Marina. I know that restaurant is gone.
Tom Sherwood: No, but there’s a zillion other restaurants.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, yeah but nothing as good as that one.
Andy Ockershausen: Because it was bad. It was old. It was beat up.
On Walking and Biking in Southwest
Tom Sherwood: But that neighborhood is great because you can walk, or bike as I do, or bike to the National Mall, which is less than about a mile away. I can bike to the baseball stadium, which is in-
Andy Ockershausen: The ballpark.
Sherwood: It’s almost a mile away. I live 25 yards from the river.
Andy Ockershausen: So you don’t miss Tenleytown?
Tom Sherwood: I don’t miss Tenleytown because the traffic is terrible.
Andy Ockershausen: But you miss the people.
Too Many People and Too Much Traffic
Tom Sherwood: The worst thing in this entire region, the city and the suburbs, traffic. People say, “Sherwood, why don’t you run for office?” I said, “If I did, I would focus on traffic, because it’s a mess.”
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, it is. There’s only way to cure it. Get rid of people.
Sherwood: Well yeah, the Mayor says, “Oh, Tom we’re a growing city.” I said, “But we’re growing, but we’re not controlling the traffic.”
Andy Ockershausen: No. Nothing has changed, right?
Tom Sherwood: Nothing’s changed. It’s been a problem forever.
Andy Ockershausen: With Tony.
Sherwood: We have big fights even today in these weeks about what to do about the Beltway, and 270, and add new lanes. If you add more lanes, well you add more cars. It’s a mess. Fortunately, I’ll be retired, and I’ll just be sitting on the river hopefully with a gin and tonic.
Andy Ockershausen: So, but Tom, a big part of Our Town, you’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
Tom Sherwood: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: But, you’ve got to know how important it is that what you have done in being a reporter to talk about our town. I don’t know whether they still do it on Channel 4, other than… Do they have reporter assigned to the city? When we grew up… Janice and I grew up at WMAL. We had three or four reporters who were assigned to the City in various degrees, because we could afford it. It was radio. It was healthy. I don’t know anybody that does it now.
On Covering Our Town as a Reporter Today
Tom Sherwood: Well no, the whole business has changed. Even at The Washington Post, reporters are assigned less to a specific geographic area and more to a subject matter like education. Of course, you have to remember the City, while it’s grown and there are now 700,000 people in this city, there’s a million people in Fairfax.
Andy Ockershausen: I understand.
Tom Sherwood: Yeah, there’s almost a million. It’s almost a million in Montgomery County.
Andy Ockershausen: In Montgomery County and PG.
Sherwood: And Prince George’s is I think at around 800,000 or so.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s growing very fast.
Tom Sherwood: Little Arlington is still about 225,000.
Andy Ockershausen: That was Alexandria . . .
Sherwood: But that’s, of course, that’s where Amazon’s going. And Alexandria, what is that, 110? It’s not very big.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, it’d never gotten real big.
Tom Sherwood: But the point is, media companies can’t afford to put reporters in all those places. Like, The Post has a Northern Virginia-
Andy Ockershausen: Bureau.
Sherwood: Bureau. But, it’s very few people. There used to be a dozen guys- and I must say guys because there were very few women who came through- who covered the Wilson Building, the District Building it was known for decades.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, we had a reporter –
Sherwood: And now, you go down-
Andy Ockershausen: Milagros Ardin, do you remember her?
Tom Sherwood: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Milagros
Sherwood: Yes, I saw her not long ago. But the point being though, now you go down there and there might be three or four- and they’re not always there every day.
Andy Ockershausen: Right.
Tom Sherwood: But that’s what the Internet has done to our news business.
Andy Ockershausen: Is ruin it. The social media has done it. The Internet’s ruined the world.
Sherwood: Well, you think it’s ruined it, but I just think it’s changed it.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, you’re right. Janny, do you have anything you want to talk to Tom? Because you’re involved in this newspaper thing now.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Well, what’s interesting to me is when Larry Krebs used to… He used to do his own editing, his own reporting, his own carrying of his camera. It just made a complete circle back into the reporter doing everything.
Tom Sherwood: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: It has. Yeah, you used to be that you had a producer, a director, and a cameraman as a reporter on the street. And now you do it alone.
No “One Man Band” Reporting for Sherwood – Focus on the Technical or the Story
Tom Sherwood: Some reporters still do. I tried the one man band thing. Channel 4 gave me a camera and I went to cover a couple of things. But, we just talked about it and said, “Well here’s the problem, if you are doing the technical work to have nice video, you cannot be talking to people at an event.” So you’re setting up the camera for the official press conference, but if you’re a reporter not doing that, you’re off to the side speaking to the aide, to the Mayor or the Council member who tells you the backstory of what the Mayor’s about to announce, and gives you information to ask questions.
So, you can either put the focus on the camera, or you can put the focus on the story. I only did about two or three do-it-yourself stories, and they said, “Sherwood needs a cameraman.”
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Yeah, never mind.
Andy Ockershausen: Right, yeah because that was taking away from the good questions you wanted to ask.
Sherwood: I’d say, “Do you want me to get news, or do you want me to run the camera?”
Andy Ockershausen: Now on your radio show, you don’t need all that. You have guests every week? A different guest-
Tom Sherwood: Yeah, Kojo Nnamdi is celebrating his 20th year on WMAL.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: AMU.
Sherwood: Did I just say MAL? Because I just saw it somewhere.
Andy Ockershausen: This it, Tom.
Tom Sherwood: Get the hook. Get the hook. All right, so WAMU, Kojo Nnamdi used to work at Howard University.
Andy Ockershausen: Yes, I knew that.
The Kojo Nnamdi Show and Friday’s Politics Hour
Tom Sherwood: He’s 20 years there, and for the last 10 years I had been his sidekick on Fridays for the Politics Hour, where we discuss Maryland, Virginia and DC politics. We have all kinds of guests there.
Andy Ockershausen: You do, and they phone . . .
Sherwood: Well, mostly… No, I always insist if it were my show, I would say, “You cannot be on this unless you’re sitting in the studio.”
Andy Ockershausen: You’ve got to be able to talk to people.
Tom Sherwood: Right? Because you want to see if they cut their eyes, or if they frown at a bad question, or a good question.
Andy Ockershausen: Exactly, you know body language . . .
Sherwood: Body language is important.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Tom Sherwood: When you get somebody on the phone, you also can’t give them the motion to shut up, because you’ve got some political people. If they call in on the phone, they can’t see that you’re rolling your eyes.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, I know. They don’t know that you’re impatient.
Tom Sherwood: But it’s a great show and I am so glad to do it, even though I quit TV.
Andy Ockershausen: Tom Sherwood you’re a special guy, and this is a special podcast for us to have you on. I meant that sincerely. This is Andy Ockershausen talking with Tom Sherwood.
Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, and our special guest, Tom Sherwood. He’s a special guest because he’s one of the most important people in Marion Barry’s life. Marion Barry isn’t with us anymore, but we had an opportunity, you and me, grew up in a world with Marion Barry, and it was something special to all of us.
Tom Sherwood: Yes, I met Marion Barry, who ran for Mayor in 1978. I met him because I was just around town then. But I started covering for The Post, DC Council and government in the early 80s, and then with a quick break to go to Richmond to cover State politics. Then I came back in the mid 80s and I covered Barry all the way until the time that he died. For all the bad things people say about him, he did some really wonderful things with this City, and that’s why he still has a reputation within the City itself for the things he did do as opposed to things he did to himself.
Andy Ockershausen: He was such a big, big figure in Our Town. I mean, he was towering.
Tom Sherwood: Right, physically a big guy.
And politically a big guy.
Andy Ockershausen: When you wrote the book with Jaffe-
Tom Sherwood: Yeah, Dream City.
Andy Ockershausen: You and Harry wrote a very famous book about Our Town.
Sherwood: Yeah, it’s called Dream City. It came out in 1994, and we did a new edition in 2014 when Muriel Bowser was elected Mayor.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, you went through a period pre-Marion too.
Tom Sherwood: Yes, we covered the creation of the City, and the failure to have voting rights for the citizens here, and just the way the City developed out of WWII.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s a peculiar thing, Tom, because I’m a resident of the City. I was born here. My grandfather was born here. We’re Washingtonian. But, our Council has done a great job. I can’t understand, everybody marches to the same step. I don’t think they have a lot of friction on that council that I can see. Maybe you think they do, and you still . . .
Sherwood: There are degrees. This is a fairly progressive, liberal city.
Andy Ockershausen: Yes, correct.
Tom Sherwood: I think Donald Trump got 4% of the vote in here. The Council, even when it was first created by Congress in the 70s, it was fairly liberal at the time. It did rent control. It did gun control, handgun control. It did social service programs.
Andy Ockershausen: All great things had to happen too.
Sherwood: Yes, but change doesn’t happen without conflict. The city has done a significant amount to change how government treats people. People don’t realize, we have a 15 billion-with-a-B dollar budget.
Andy Ockershausen: Budget, I know that. And they just finished debating it.
Tom Sherwood: But a lot of that money goes for… It’s like the State of Virginia and Maryland, we pay. The city does Medicare and Medicaid… I’m sorry not Medicare, Medicaid for poor people. That’s a state issue in Maryland, Virginia and all the 50 other states. But in the District, that has to be done here. So, there’s a lot the city has on its plate. It’s both a city, it’s a county, city, a state-
Andy Ockershausen: It’s all.
Tom Sherwood: And a federal government. So, 13 councilmen.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s in a federal conclave.
Sherwood: Right, it gets a lot done, and sometimes it gets stuff wrong.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, but it’s still a lot of progress. I mean, it’s a progressive city. In addition to that, Marion, I think, started liberalizing the buildings here. A lot of the buildings were post. . .
Tom Sherwood: He was pro-development, yes. The downtown… Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: He was the development guy.
Sherwood: The Capital One Center would not have been built without him. Had he been Mayor, the District would never have lost the Washington Redskins. That would be a Redskin Stadium at the site of RFK, if Barry had been in charge.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, he might made so much if William Donald Shaffer did it in Baltimore, when they were trying to build on the Railroad George, camping yards. If Uncle Sam said, “You can’t do that because there’s PCP in the ground.” The Mayor said, “We’re going to build it,” and he did it. He flaunted the federal government and built that stadium.
Sherwood’s Analogy of DC’s Structure: A Wedding Cake
Tom Sherwood: The little District of Columbia, which I always tell people it’s like a wedding cake here. There’s, at the very top, it’s kind of the foreign national issues, then in the middle it’s the national: the President and the Congress. But the big piece of cake here is the local community of the people who live here, many of whom have nothing to do with federal or international politics. They simply live here.
An Out of Towner’s Misconception of DC May Impact Voting Rights for the City
Very quick story, I was on the mall interviewing people about voting rights for the city. This man and his wife were from Kentucky or somewhere. I said, “Do you think people in the District ought to have voting rights in Congress?” He looked at me quizzically and he said, “But you work for us.” He thought everyone, including the TV reporter, worked for the federal government. Then when I explained to him, “No, there’s a real city here with synagogues, and churches, and schools,” he says, “Oh, of course you should have the same rights.”
DC people want DC statehood, or voting rights in Congress. They have to do a much better job of selling the City.
Andy Ockershausen: And they got to sell it nationally too.
Tom Sherwood: Yes, nationally. They need a major budget.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely. Tom Sherwood, you’re a fountain of information, as I knew you would be. You’re a big part of Our Town, doing reporting, and you’ve covered it up and down, and around. Now, being down in the southwest, we miss you in Tenleytown. Maybe we can get you to move back now that you find that the prices have gone up where you are.
Sherwood: I was looking at the prices up here. I would prefer not to move again. Again, I don’t need the steps or yard work, but I do think people should know that despite whatever issues arise and fall in the District, we’re not any different than any other government in America. We have our good things and bad things, but we are true… I always tell people we’re the most un-American place in America, because we don’t have the right to vote. But, we are just like America.
Andy Ockershausen: I agree with you. Tom Sherwood, you’re all All-American guy. We miss you on Channel 4, but I hope to see you more in person as we get more active downtown. Thank you for being a big part of Our Town.
Tom Sherwood: Just don’t park in my neighborhood.
Andy Ockershausen: Parking. You talk about traffic… You know the guy that ran the city of New York had a plan to make New York traffic-free, make all the streets one way out of town.
Sherwood: Yes. I think of that some days when I’m stuck in traffic.
Andy Ockershausen: This has been a wonderful conversation with Tom Sherwood, the star of radio, TV and newspapers. How many people can say that, Tom?
Tom Sherwood: I don’t even think I can say it. You can say it, I can’t.
Andy Ockershausen: I can say it, but you are star, and have been a big part of my life.
Tom Sherwood: I’m a footnote. I’m a footnote to you.
Andy Ockershausen: [pause] Not a footnote. That’s wrong, Tom Sherwood. You’re an important man in Our Town, and continue to be. Good luck with you and Harry Jaffe. I hope you got paid.
Sherwood: Yeah, we did get some money. I didn’t get a chance to criticize Harry, but let me just say without Harry Jaffe, Dream City never would have been written. I don’t have the attention span for it.
Andy Ockershausen: Without Janice Ockershausen, I wouldn’t have read the book, because she bought it. She’s a fan. This has been Our Town with Andy Ockershausen, with a wonderful conversation with Tom Sherwood.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town, Season 5, a Hometown favorite with your host Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released every Tuesday. Special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director, and to WMAL Radio in Washington DC. Follow Our Town on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. If you haven’t yet, go to Apple Podcasts and subscribe and don’t forget to rate and review our podcast. Join us next Tuesday for another Our Town conversation. Thanks so much for listening.