Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Last Investigators

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Day Old Media Investigative Journalism Died

By Gary Tilzer

Yesterday the Internet chatter exploded when news broke that Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins were leaving the Village Voice. With the large number of people commenting it was clear that we lost more than just two excellent writers. We lost Local journalism.

Over a decade ago the Voice's power to publish a investigative story that would shake the politician or city government to the core has past. Despite the lose of power Barrett and Robbins keep the old time muckraking going with quality investigative reports that because of their institutional understand and excellent contacts produced information and connected the dots for all of us. Barrett said yesterday, "Tom and I do things on the beat that are very valuable to it," he said. "We can read a news story that every other reporter has read and we can bring a new set of eyes to it, see it as a pattern of conduct, grasp the history, put in context. We bring a body of experience that is important to this beat." When all the media was airbrushing Al Sharpton, Barrett told the truth about the skeeviness of this shakedown artist, racial arsonist, and former FBI informer. Wayne didn't pick sides, he picked you apart: "Barrett said, It was always the conduct that prodded me to write, not the person. And that is what I lived for, a chance to say something that revealed and mattered. To me, the story will always be the thing. It is all I can see."

During his 35 years Barrett was at the Voice corporate owners bought up most media outlets and newspapers. In a city of media owners who use their papers as a cheerleader to allow Bloomberg to change term limits and run for a third term, Barrett and Robbins were like old time artisans, from and era when journalist were free to tell the public the truth. These new owners are more interested in what they can do with the power of ownership for themselves, than quality journalism designed to inform the public what their government was really up to. Our First Amendment Right.

Stepford Reporters
Today investigative reporters like Barrett and Robbins are a dieing breed, copy cat journalism is the norm. Today reporters simply use the Internet stories of there competition to write their articles. Any additional info they put in their story in their story is usually gotten from political flacks, lobbyist and government press offices who are paid to shape and control the news. Most of the newspapers, TV and radio news programs today have the same stories. Most blogs run by old media act act as cheerleaders for lobbyist, pols and insiders. They ignore and make fun of independent bloggers like Rafael Martínez Alequín who broke the Espada rip of case years before the others A Journalist Breaks Through City Hall's "Blue Wall of Silence" TV reporters get this jobs by the size of their breast and good looks, not their ability to investigate. The happy talk and number of stories about pets is sicking and is shown to cause brain damage in rats. Shrinking Newspaper Coverage Means Less Real TV News More Sexy Reporters

Investigative stories breaking new ground is very rear, almost never done anymore. That is why so many people were very sad yesterday at what the Voice did. We know that copy cat journalism written by clueless reporters with no institutional memory is the future and that our city, nation and democracy will fail because of that. 2 Veterans Leave Village Voice (NYT) * Wayne Barrett Says He Fears for the Future of Local Political Reporting * Wayne Barrett: Hail and Farewell
Journalist Salute
Post like this appeared all over Facebook yesterday. This one is from Dean Chang of the NYT "What the Village Voice loses in respect, stature, experience and quality can not be overstated. The same goes for the principles, integrity and heart of Tom Robbins, who exemplifies the better part of valor."

Former Voice editor Don Forst says, "With the loss of Wayne and Tom, they lost Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle." Barrett's and Robbin's departure leaves us that much poorer-and that much less protected from the malefactors who are attracted to the political process.
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