WP: 2:30 am on Fourth and K

The Washingtonpost’s Dan Zak publishes an article as well as a video interview with transgender prostitutes that prowl K Street in Mount Vernon Triangle after 2AM.

Discuss your thoughts in the comments section.

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  1. 1

    Jose Carioca says

    Why can’t “Staci” and her pals go peddle their wares over in Virginia, where she apparently is from? Oh, that’s right, it’s Virginia, where they would just lock her in jail and throw away the key. So I guess we lucky residents of Mount Vernon Square get to put up with this nonsense. Having lived here for six years, I believe that the future belongs to people who are doing positive things in our neighborhood, such as the Farm at Walker Jones and the new businesses in the City Vista. Staci and the rest of the T-girls on K Street should take it somewhere else.

  2. 2

    JM says

    Dan Zak apparently doesn’t find it necessary to mention the “straight boys” loitering around this scene are there to sell drugs. I suppose that didn’t fit in his narrative of trying to portray Staci and her pals as harmless & colorful characters.

  3. 4

    M Street says

    Right…a clean, well-maintained new building filled with homes, restaurants and stores is a monstrosity, but people debasing themselves in public and flagrantly breaking the law are just a bunch of quirky wisecracking characters. This story is seriously unbalanced.

    I’m looking forward to the redevelopment of the 400 block of K Street and the displacement of these folks.

  4. 5

    Chris K says

    Agree with M Street. This was an unbalanced piece of writing that I don’t plan on giving much attention to. Obviously this area still has some things to take care of and some vacant lots to be developed, but those things take time and you can’t chance cities overnight. You could write a piece like this on any part of the city if you wanted to….that is part of living in a city. I am proud to live in the Triangle and this silly piece of writing doesn’t change that. This will be the new downtown soon and I think we all live in a great (but somewhat still up-and-coming) area.

  5. 6


    I was shocked to read this article in the Post, and am meeting with Commander Hickson today to prepare him for the new Johns looking for action and tourists searching for street walkers this weekend. Mount Vernon Triangle has improved so much in recent years. We no longer have homeless prostitutes living on 4th Street, NW. And crime has fallen significantly.

  6. 7

    Sara R says

    I think this piece was irresponsible of the Post. I receive the police alerts from our neighborhood and I haven’t heard anything about shootings, so I am particularly disturbed by their mention of shots ringing. This can’t be helpful for our property values. Although I know the prostitution persists, there have also been huge improvements in that area in the past 18 months and the article should have highlighted that. Maybe a better article from the Post would have been to highlight the organizations that feed individuals in need at 4th and K, or the number of jobs created by the new retail at City Vista.

  7. 8

    Dan Zak says

    This was a piece about one woman in one location at one time, in keeping with the spirit of the series I’m doing (www.washingtonpost.com/night-lives). It was not my intent to write a public service announcement for Mount Vernon (I live a couple blocks up 9th Street, and used to live on 7th), or detail its current real-estate wonders and future potential. That would’ve been irresponsible and unbalanced to my story subject — which was Staci Daniel, not property owners.

  8. 9

    CVRez says

    Personally I’m not rankled that Zak didn’t write a PSA for the neighborhood. But he didn’t have to go out of his way to call City Vista a monstrosity.

  9. 11

    M Street says

    Dan, thanks for weighing in here. But aside from your depiction of the neighborhood (BTW, I agree that you’re not obliged to write a PSA), I was troubled by the lack of balance in other aspects of your story. I’m sure that Staci has travelled a hard road to get to the point she’s at now, and I don’t have any desire take shots at her, or to see you do so. But a journalist interviewing a politician wouldn’t take everything they say at face value…why did you do so with Staci? For example, you parrot her decription of herself as an escort, but she’s clearly not — she’s soliciting on the street. She mentions that she doesn’t want to die, but it appears that you never asked her about the greatest threat to her life: HIV/AIDS. In a city with an HIV/AIDS epidemic, did you really interview a transvestite prostitute about her work and life and never think to inquire how she feels about the health risks she is subjecting herself and her customers to? Staci comes across as possibly delusional, but the reader can’t tell if she’s actually mentally ill, because you never probed anything she said.

    Thanks for the link to your series. Maybe if I read a few more I’ll understand where you’re trying to go with these stories.

  10. 12

    Dan Zak says

    @ M Street: In the five hours I spent with her, Staci talked repeatedly (unprompted) about the threat of HIV/AIDS. That threat was a brief part of the story (mentioned around “words of caution”) and a brief part of the accompanying video, but was trimmed for space/content reasons. Not ideal, I realize, but editing and publishing are exercises in compromise. There was space to address one harsh reality, and I chose violence (because of the recent spate against transwomen) not disease (which is perennial and well-covered in The Washington Post).

    I corroborated Staci’s presentation of herself as much as I could with others on the street — some of whom are in the same diploma program — and with her brother. Could they have all been lying to me, concocted a whole fake persona for Staci? I suppose. But c’mon. Also, you infer she solicits on the street. The night I hung out with her, she was there for social purposes and the story clearly states that. What she does beyond that night I will never know for sure. But she and some of the other women out there don’t need the paltrier income that street solicitation provides, and that was clear from their conversations and behavior. As the story also states, this is the only stretch of the city where some of them can be themselves together *in public*.

    I had only one night of reporting and 800 words at my disposal, and I trusted my instincts about the authenticity of my subject and the people around her. Did you watch the video? Watch the video, and then try to tell me this is a mentally ill person. It kills me, though, that you also infer from my story that she may be delusional. I found her to have the realest, most elegant sense of the world of anyone I’ve written about in a long time. She knows exactly who she is, she grasps the parameters of her life, and she’s found a way to thrive. From there, I leave it to others to pass judgment.

    Long story short (too late): A story of this size can’t possibly wrap its arms around the entirety of existence. But it can communicate what it feels like to be in a certain place at a certain time with a certain person. Which was my one and only goal.

    @ MVT: Thanks for linking to the story and providing a forum for feedback and discussion. I do appreciate it, truly. If anyone wants to continue this conversation or ask me any questions, please e-mail me — zakd@washpost.com.

    P.S. Sorry to offend City Vista residents with the use of “monstrosity” but, I mean, it’s a monster of a building that squashes character in the name of development. I’ll say a novena for your property values.

  11. 14

    Josh says

    @ Dan — Does the City Vista building really squash character, or does it simply bring a different kind of character to the area?

    And I appreciate your novena for my property values. I’ll return the favor and say a novena for the “character” squashed in the name of development.

  12. 15

    anon says

    @Dan – that’s probably the worst piece of reporting I have seen in a long time. Really…glorifying criminal and dangerous behavior??? And your use of the word “escort” instead of “hooker” or “prostitute” really demonstrates your overreaching attempt to paint the situation as something which it is not. I guess WaPo standards have really fell.

  13. 16

    C says

    These women face enormous job discrimination. They can’t even get hired to flip hamburgers at McDonalds.

  14. 17

    M Street says

    @Dan, I just watched the video. I agree that Staci does not come across as mentally ill. Other than that, we don’t agree on much else…

    Staci seems warm and personable, and I can see why you were drawn to her as a subject. Perhaps delusional is too strong a word, but I heard a lot of rationalizing in the video (and the story). And I’m astonished that you can describe her as “having found a way to thrive.” Huh? How so? I’m really struggling to comprehend how having sex with strangers for money — almost universally considered the most demeaning and devaluing work a person can do — constitutes thriving. She is on an extraordinarily dangerous (not to mention illegal) path.

    I wish her the best, which is to say that I hope she makes some changes in her life. And that she finds a better place to spend the wee hours than a sidewalk on K Street.

  15. 18

    MM says

    This was a totally fair story. And I commend the reporter for doing a good job in telling it. It’s unfortunate that the takeaway from the piece for most folks, however, is his description of the City Vista “monstrosity.” Good or bad, it is a monstrosity (after all, it’s a massive, clunky piece of new urbanism dumped in a sea of parking lots. What else would you call it?) But that’s really besides the point. The real issue is that Mt. Vernon Triangle is a community. And within our community, there’s an illegal and violent late-night economy that’s happening on our doorsteps, which has unfortunate consequences for everyone involved. It’s safe to say that our neighborhood would benefit tremendously if we spent our time working with the police and DC officials to address the actual issues highlighted by this article, rather fighting over the aesthetics of the building.

  16. 19

    dcmidlev says

    Regardless of the aesthetics of City Vista, what I took issue with is that Dan felt the need to use our neigborhood to “address one harsh reality” – “violence.” If what he’s saying is true, that there’s that level of violence, illegal activity, and shooting going on in our neighborhood on a regular basis, it obviously concerns me. But I can’t tell from the article whether that’s true or just verbiage to make the article more sensational. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more places the trans community feels welcome, but that doesn’t mean we should glamourize (or sensationalize) their illegal activities in our neighborhood.