Monday, February 28, 2011

I’ve found in my career that the people who are doing the best journalism are a challenge to work with. - Wayne Barrett

“I’m not an angry guy. There’s just a lot to be outraged about.”

“Tony Ortega is the hardest working editor and the most skillful editor of copy that I’ve ever had,” Mr. Barrett said. “But I’ve never liked him very much.”

Writing for a more mainstream publication with a larger circulation might have given Mr. Barrett’s work more exposure, might have made people take it more seriously. But he stayed at The Voice, he said, because it provided nearly total freedom to do what he liked. It was not until the last few years, he said, that editors even asked that he run his projects by them before getting started.

“I’m a spoiled brat,” he admitted. “I know I’m never going to have that again. I have to get used to the idea that an editor like Tina Brown is going to have her own ideas about what I should be doing.”

SHOOT: I feel for you Mr. Garrett. 

Mr. Barrett refuses to use a cellphone, insisting that people are not meant to always be in contact with one another; he is more animated and long-winded about this pet peeve than about any of the political corruption he has covered. He refused to use e-mail for years after it had become standard, insisting that his interns deliver their memos on paper to his home in Brooklyn. After he relented, it had to be explained to him that “.com” was not spelled “d-o-t-c-o-m.”

“Battling with Wayne Barrett has been one of the best experiences of my career,” said Mr. Ortega, the current editor of The Voice. “You work with the guy, you’re going to get into fights. I’ve found in my career that the people who are doing the best journalism are a challenge to work with.”

“He’s the scariest, sweetest man alive, and I know that sounds like a contradiction,” said Jessica Bennett, one of a legion of his former interns, who now writes for Newsweek. “He was kind of a dad to all of us, took an interest in our personal lives. But you also had to write down his instructions verbatim, because if anything was slightly different, there would be a public berating of the intern.”

As Ms. Hancock put it, “Wayne manages to be endearing and obnoxious at the same time.”
Their living and dining rooms are lined with books, all of them nonfiction, all of them read. Mr. Barrett cannot remember the last time he read a novel, and when asked if he felt he was missing something, he said, “Nyah.”
He has never used an A.T.M. “I don’t spend any money,” he says. “Fran gives me $20 on Monday, and I give her change on Friday.” She buys his clothes, too, and sometimes tells him which ones to wear. “None of that stuff interests me,” he says. “What does is the next story.”

Read the full article here.

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