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Inkblots in Albany

June 10, 2010

He can be a journalistic Dr. Rohrschach, seeing things that others don’t. Because of this tendency, you don’t always agree with him. But you respect his passion, after a gazillion years, for being a reporter. You admire his tenacity. You applaud the fact that he makes all the other reporters look positively lazy by always basing his articles on thorough research. Were it not for the fact that he works for a paper with some pretty randy classified ads, he would, by acclaim, have the title he deserves – best pure journalist in New York.

We’re talking about Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice. 

This praise comes after reading Barrett’s analysis of the Andrew Cuomo-Shelly Silver relationship. (See: Andrew’s Biggest Rival Won’t be the GOP

Take notes on Barrett’s list of the potential flash points in this relationship, including: Ethics reform; independent redistricting; sole trusteeship; Medicaid reform; and consolidation of state agencies. 

We happen to believe that Cuomo is more accommodating and Silver much more pragmatic than Barrett gives either man credit for, but his general analysis of the situation is solid. That’s because he’s a long-time observer of both men, but especially Cuomo. In fact, nobody goes back further with the Cuomos than Barrett. Nobody has engaged both father and son in vigorous debate for longer than he. 

Wayne is probably on the phone in heated discussions with Andrew now. But unlike other reporters who can be cowed by the Cuomos, Barrett is impervious to pressure. He’s not going to be waved off of anything. He can’t be intimidated. He can’t be charmed.  That is not to say, though, that he ignores what he hears. No, he actually has a great ear for the newsworthy. 

In this regard, take note of the section of Barrett’s story where one of the Cuomos, presumably Andrew, practices some revisionist history – essentially blaming Silver for Mario’s defeat.  They claim that Silver denied the then-Governor a victory on the “three strikes and you’re out” sentencing measure. This is fascinating. Could it really be that the Cuomos are holding a misguided grudge from 20 years ago?  Do they really think that bill would have made a difference? 

Throughout this campaign season and after, other reporters would do well to remember Barrett’s approach. He engages the pols and listens to them, but he’s always skeptical. And he’s not afraid to write what he truly believes.

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