Sunday, June 12, 2005


UP FRONT News June 12, 2005
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham

“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.”

My first contact with The Village Voice took place in late 1977 or early 1978 when, in the possession of documents that proved that budget cuts were directly responsible for the deaths of several patients at City-operated Queens Hospital Center – where I was employed as a social worker and where I was an elected member of the Community Advisory Board and Chairman of the Board’s Patient Care Committee – I had concluded that the N.Y.C. Heath and Hospitals Corporation cover-up had gone far enough. That cover-up of patient care disasters that also involved systematic abuse of patients on the hospital’s inpatient psychiatric unit – a “Cuckoo’s Nest of racist abuse of mostly black patients by a mostly white staff – also included suspending me from my job, running me through a Soviet-style psychiatric gulag, and throwing me in jail.

Under the evidently naïve assumption that the purportedly progressive Village Voice would go after a story like this, I called the paper and was immediately given an appointment with then voice reporter Michael Daly – who has long since been liberated from that stifling, phony weekly and works at the much more honest New York Daily News. Mr. Daley and I met at his voice office for at least an hour, with him taking all the relevant documents and asking me lots of questions. We agreed to meet again, but set up no specific appointment.

When I called perhaps a week or two later, I learned that Daly had left the paper and that one Wayne Barrett had been assigned to follow the story. Barrett immediately gave me an appointment and we spent about two hours talking in his office. He was most friendly, evincing apparently sincere interest, and, following the interview, gave me a ride part way to my home, a loft on Duane Street in what is now Tribeca. When several follow-up calls from me went unanswered, I stopped in at his office about two weeks later to be “greeted” by Barrett, who immediately became verbally abusive, very, very loud, and threw me out of his office with insults, making suggestions about my mental health that sounded suspiciously like those being leveled at me by the folks responsible for the de facto Genocide going on in the City’s hospitals.

In any event, the story, which was, of course, killed by Barrett, was soon covered by, among much other media, The New York Times, the Daily News, and, most conspicuously and very thoroughly, by Newsday in its Queens Edition, with that paper placing me on its front page on March 1, 1978. Channel 11 News did a segment with me and articles were published in the Queens Tribune (which did an excellent job, that weekly being light years ahead of the weakly Voiceless when it comes to going after tough stories) and Our Town, among other media. Not at all surprisingly, the Voice’s right wing fraternal twin, the New York Post, also killed the Queens Hospital Center story, a matter involving nothing more serious than government executed political murder.

Over the years since, I’ve run into Barrett a number of times. Not at all surprisingly, he remembers me. And, also not at all surprisingly, this totally corrupt journalist has told me several times, that he will never mention my name in anything he writes. He also evidently lied when, following his acceptance of documents I left at the Voiceless about the Genocide in Tibet, he evidently failed to follow up on his promise, made during a telephone conversation with me that he would deliver the documents to Matthew Ridgeway, who covers international affairs for this pathetic excuse for a newspaper. I spoke to Ridgeway over the phone a few weeks after Barrett got my stuff, and he told me he never got anything from Barrett.

Wayne Barrett is under the impression that his umpteenth story about the fact that Governor George Pataki is corrupt constitutes some kind of investigative journalistic coup. The stunning news that Pataki is corrupt is about as shocking as the earthshaking report that George Steinbrenner is arrogant, or, for that matter, that Steinbrenner employee Alex Rodriguez is not eligible for Section 8 housing.

Except taking into account salary considerations, why competent reporters such as Sydney Schanberg, Nat Hentoff and Tom Robbins work for that paper, is beyond me. The Village Voice, once a tribune of solid investigative journalism, is descending into a netherworld with the paper now being of interest mainly to club-hoppers looking for hip experiences in Manhattan as well as rich folks looking for homes that millions of the rest of us could never afford. And, perhaps worst of all, now that the paper is free (after all, why would anyone pay for it?), all the Voiceless does is contribute to New York City’s litter problem.

The Voiceless is, indeed, the bottom of the Barrett.

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