Obit for a real newsman

From The Village Voice; Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017


Wayne Barrett, a legendary investigative reporter for the Village Voice, who for 37 years served as a tenacious check on New York’s powerful, died today in Manhattan. He was 71.


During his time at the paper, Barrett came to define a kind of big-city muckraking that relentlessly challenged the political class and wealthy business interests alike. Among his many targets was a young developer named Donald Trump; Barrett’s 1979 expose, which dissected, in minute detail, two formative land deals in Manhattan, was the first substantive reporting on Trump’s then-nascent empire.


Republished last year, it details how the now president-elect established himself through nepotism, nearly unprecedented government subsidies and second-hand political connections gained through his father. Barrett continued to follow Trump’s career, and his 1993 book, Trump: The Deals and the Downfall, had a second life during its subject’s seemingly improbable rise to the presidency.


Barrett was born on July 11, 1945, in New Britain, Connecticut and grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia. He got his start with the Voice as a freelancer, before moving into a staff position in 1973. He was a tenacious chronicler of five New York City mayors, from Abe Beame in the early seventies, through the Bloomberg years. His book City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York set the tone for the kind of meticulous and adversarial journalism he would practice over the decades.


Barrett was laid off from the Voice in 2010, a victim of cost cutting measures. His exit prompted the resignation, in solidarity, of Tom Robbins, another investigative powerhouse, and was widely decried in New York’s journalistic community.