Backgrounder: Lynn Povich and George Solomon

Shirley and Maury Povich with Muhammad Ali
Pulling Punches: The late Shirley Povich horses around with his son Maury and Muhammad Ali, in one of Povich's rare television appearances--on Maury's former show "Panorama." Photo courtesy of PublicAffairs Press.

In 75 years of covering sports for the Washington Post, Shirley Povich never hesitated to write about the injustices plaguing America’s favorite pastimes. As early as 1939 he was taking baseball owners to task for confining talented black players to the Negro Leagues, insisting that “only one thing is keeping them out of the big leagues—the pigmentation of their skin.”

Povich, who died in 1998 at the age of 92, lived to see some changes. In 1960, when the Washington Redskins’ management was still resisting integration, Povich wrote with characteristic humor of a Redskins loss in which Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown “integrated the Redskins’ goal line with more than deliberate speed,” a wry reference to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 1954 desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education.

Povich’s daughter Lynn may have had those very words in mind in 1970 when she was part of a groundbreaking sex-discrimination lawsuit against Newsweek. When the magazine ran a cover story on the women’s movement in March, 1970, it had no women writers. “We women decided that was it,” Povich recalled in a 2004 interview. “So we sued.” She went on to become the magazine’s first woman senior editor, a post she held from 1975 to 1991.

From ‘91 to ‘96, she served as editor-in-chief of Working Woman magazine. “The rap has been that women don’t want to deal with financial concerns,” she wrote in introducing the magazine’s special issue on financial security. “That’s hogwash…Now we have to take what we’ve rightfully earned and learn how to make the most of it.” In ‘96, she moved to, where she worked as managing editor, then senior executive producer of East Coast programming until 2001. Now an advocate for press freedom, Povich sits on the board of directors of the International Women’s Media Foundation and is a member of Human Rights Watch’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Rights. In April 2005, PublicAffairs Press published All Those Mornings…At the Post, a 400-page collection of Shirley Povich’s columns. The volume was edited by Lynn, along with her brothers Maury and David, and longtime Post sportswriter George Solomon, a colleague and close friend of her father’s.

Povich’s co-editor, George Solomon, spent 31 years at the Post, 28 of them as assistant managing editor of the paper’s sports section. When Solomon retired in 2003, Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. described him as “the best and most influential sports editor of his time,” crediting Solomon with increasing coverage of women’s sports and with spotlighting ethical controversies on and off the fields. Now ESPN’s first ombudsman, Solomon is charged with improving coverage, presentation and editorial decisions in a multi-media sports empire. “I’ll try to accept the fact that the same network that seriously competes in the Edward R. Murrow competition for broadcast excellence also covers eating competitions,” he quipped in his introductory column. But he has wasted no time in his new role, taking on issues from uneven treatment of different athletes accused (but not convicted) of using performance-enhancing drugs, to sexism in live broadcasts and promotions. As Solomon put it in another recent column, “What’s with hyping Fantasy Football by featuring four scantily clad women engaged in a pillow fight? Aren’t we beyond that?” Thanks to his work, maybe someday soon we will be. His monthly ESPN column can be read online at

Nora Connor is a master’s candidate in the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program in NYU’s Department of Journalism.