When it was reported yesterday that investigative reporter Wayne Barrett had died at the age of 71, perhaps no sentiment better summed it up than this tweet from Jeff Greenfield.
The wrenching irony that the reporter who dug longest and deepest into Trump dies on Inauguration Eve. https://t.co/oKkGR3h9Gp
— Jeff Greenfield (@greenfield64) January 19, 2017
Like Greenfield, many considered Barrett the ultimate authority on Trump’s dealings, and during the election and after many made the pilgrimage to his Brooklyn home to talk to him about the subject he knew so thoroughly. Jennifer Gonnerman, writing in the New Yorker, put the number who visited him at more than 60. When Gonnerman visited him the day after the election, Barrett dismissed the idea offered by Hillary Clinton in her concession speech, of considering Trump with an open mind. “You don’t look at him with an open mind,” he told her. “You look at him with all the information you can assemble, and you try to get him to not do the terrible things he promised.”
Trump was not the only subject of Barrett’s work, who in his almost four decade career at the Village Voice produced major investigative pieces on figures like former New York mayor Edward I. Koch and Rudolph Giuliani.
In the New York Times, Sam Roberts shared an anecdote about how Barrett saw his role, as explained to a group of elementary school kids:
Mr. Barrett was once asked to explain to students at his son’s elementary school just what raking muck actually meant in terms of a day-to-day job. To appear in character, he put on a trench coat, pulled up the collar, withdrew a pad from his pocket and defined that special breed of investigative journalist this way: “We are detectives for the people.”
On Twitter, many shared remembrances of Barrett.
Wayne Barrett, the greatest investigative reporter I've ever known, a guiding, goading inspiration to generations of reporters, has died.
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) January 19, 2017
"We are detectives for the people." RIP Wayne Barrett, a journalistic giant. Would've been Trump's biggest critic https://t.co/lUUHPgkP6U
— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) January 20, 2017
“There is also no other job where you get paid to tell the truth.” – Wayne Barrett, RIP https://t.co/ROscBStSfy
— Tim O'Brien (@TimOBrien) January 19, 2017
Rest in peace to the great Wayne Barrett, who was tough on Trump, tough on Rudy, and tough on US in the press. https://t.co/gyrDwcQBRs
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) January 20, 2017
— The Village Voice (@villagevoice) January 19, 2017
The late Wayne Barrett's famous 1979 Village Voice story on the rise of Donald Trump: https://t.co/gGFcSiQXct
— Michiko Kakutani (@michikokakutani) January 20, 2017
— Azi (@Azi) January 20, 2017
I can't stop reading advice emails from #WayneBarrett. During such an emotional time, there's much comfort in his reporting wisdom.
— Nomiki Konst (@NomikiKonst) January 20, 2017
On the drive to the hospital where he breathed his last, Wayne Barrett was still doing interviews for a big, tough story on Donald Trump.
— Tom Robbins (@tommy_robb) January 20, 2017