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Dan Silverman: A blogger who gets the news by foot

Dan Silverman, The Prince of Petworth
Dan Silverman, The Prince of Petworth (Credit: Marvin Joseph /The Washington Post)

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By Lenny Bernstein
Thursday, April 1, 2010

Before cellphones and e-mail, before land lines really, reporters made their rounds on foot. They visited sources, met people for meals, ran out to the places where news was happening.

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Dan Silverman, who single-handedly produces the popular Prince of Petworth blog, is as 2010 as they come, but his reportorial technique is so "The Front Page." He walks. And walks. And walks.

It is the only way, he says, to get to all corners of the city that fascinate him and find the hyper-local info his 40,000 unique monthly visitors crave. (The three-year-old blog is no longer confined to the Petworth neighborhood Silverman calls home.)

Is there a new blue tarp over an old lot? Silverman investigates. An interesting renovation on some remote street? Silverman goes to see it. An ugly balcony, a cool backyard fence, a strange-looking door? Silverman goes, takes a quick photo, makes a note on his tiny pad and his readers know first.

"Not only do I love to walk, but it's a full-fledged addiction, to the point where if I don't walk, I get grumpy," he says. Silverman does nothing else for fitness -- no strength- or cross-training -- and says he is in terrific shape.

I don't doubt it. I spent part of a gray, misty Sunday trekking through Petworth, Columbia Heights and Shaw with the 35-year-old Silverman, trotting occasionally to keep up with a pace his iPhone clocks at 3.5 miles an hour. Because of heavy rain, he had walked only eight miles the day before, so he put in 14 that day. (Your intrepid MisFit jumped on the Metro after four miles.) Measuring his distance with an iPhone app, Silverman says he travels a minimum of 50 miles a week, 25 of them on Saturday and Sunday.

Our main purpose that day was to check out reader tips about two new restaurants. Not newly opened restaurants. No, "PoP" readers must know this kind of development long before the first meal is served. So we examined, and Silverman photographed, the permits posted on the front doors of two places in the early stages of renovation. And then off we went, on a block-by-block walking tour led by a guy who probably knows more about the District than some beat cops.

Silverman sold his car six months ago because he never used it. And the owners of a local running store like his style so much that they give Silverman a free pair of shoes every other month, as if he were some famous athlete.

All he needs now is someone to throw in a fedora and a "Press" card.


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