Today's Observer calls attention to Times metro reporter Sewell Chan's signal accomplishment of the last year: 422 bylines, nearly 100 more than his closest competitor and more than twice the total for most other reporters. What we can't quite decide is whether Gabe Sherman's piece is designed to celebrate Chan's accomplishment or to demonstrate his insufferability. We suspect the goal was the former, but we're pretty hung up on the latter. To wit:
"I guess I'm really old-fashioned, but I'd rather be the one writing about the news," Mr. Chan said, declining to comment any further.
He has been known to shower famous journalists with detailed praise, including specific citations of their work.
"There's a lot of great, ambitious, smart reporters in the newsroom," [Chan's former editor Wendell] Jamieson said, "but he's the only reporter I know who actually pitched me a story while I've been standing at the urinal in the men's room."
In 1999, he joined The [Washington] Post's metro desk, where he covered cops, education and social services. "He would stay up late at night reading clips," said former Post reporter Justin Blum, who now works for Bloomberg News. "He could recite who was on the City Council decades ago."
"At one point, he asked then-A.M.E. for metro JoAnn Armao to bring a cot in so he could sleep," Post metro reporter Lyndsey Layton said. "He was having such long days, he thought it would be more efficient to sleep there. I don't think she took it as a serious request."
Ms. Layton sat in the cubicle next to Mr. Chan in the newsroom. "He keeps trying to go deeper," Ms. Layton said. "He has this very strange affection for middle initials. He was always double-checking with sources, 'Is that William H.W. Smith III?' He would get everyone's middle initial.
Mr. Chan then was assigned to Iraq, where he had other troubles. During his three months in Baghdad, he clashed with Post bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Post staffers said there was an incident in which Mr. Chan antagonized the bureau by asking the paper's Iraqi driver to install a new toilet seat in his room at the Sheraton.
Soon after, he moved to The Times. There, he became as constant a presence in the newsroom as on the news pages. Mr. Jamieson said he had to order Mr. Chan to stop showing up on days off—or at least to stop showing up so much.
"I told him to take a day off on the weekend," Mr. Jamieson said. "I think he did sometimes, and didn't on others."
We were going to point out that we don't know the guy, never met him at a party. Now we see why.