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A selection of brickbats and bouquets--the standard labels apply--from Newfield's 20 years on the Village Voice. ""In my lifetime in this city, I have never encountered anyone as rotten as Bernard Bergman."" ""Over the years I have watched Ed Koch gradually change, watched him accommodate to wealth, political fashion, and looser ethics."" ""I don't know of any figure in American politics""--this is ""Ted Sorensen, A Burnt-Out Case""--""whose public reputation and real worth are at such variance."" Other targets include N.Y.C. council president Carol Bellamy, ex-congressman John Murphy, onetime special prosecutor Maurice Nadjari, Nelson Rockefeller, and, in more traditional ""muckraking"" pieces, landlord-arsonists (""The Men Who Are Burning New York"") and boxing promoters (""The Men Who Are Killing a Noble Sport""). Kudos go to Robert Kennedy (paired, as an obit, with the Rockefeller), Bill Moyers (contrasted with Sorensen), SNCC's Bob Moses and Muhammad Ali (both, with reservations). The Moyers and Moses tributes have a modicum of solid reportorial content, and there's one piece--on Westway foe Marcy Benstock--that approximates a portrait (origins, modus operandi) of a public-interest crusader. Otherwise, the evanescent, New-York interest of many of the outcries apart, this is pretty thin stuff--with a couple of special twists. Newfield, to his chagrin, was accused of anti-Semitism for his pursuit of nursing-home czar Bergman. (""The fact is that the Bergmans of this world are one cause of anti-Semitism,"" concludes the article reprinted.) He went to Israel, then wrote ""on the world's indifference to anti-Semitism""--lauding Timerman, denouncing both right-wing Timerman critics and left-wing foes of Israel. It's raw evidence, at least, of the passions aroused. Also, apropos of Murphy and other corrupt Congressmen, he defends ABSCAM: ""Except for the handful like Elizabeth Holtzman and Ruth Messinger, who are motivated by idealistic values, the overwhelming majority are driven by an appetite for money, power, and politics."" (Critical liberals should have trusted the government prosecutors: ""all honorable, prudent lawyers."") In the preface and introduction, and again in the two concluding pieces, Newfield claims a galaxy of journalistic forebears (Jacob Riis and Lincoln Steffens, sportswriter Jimmy Cannon, I. F. Stone and Murray Kempton). Close monitors of the journalistic scene may care to weigh the lineage; the separate pieces had their day in the Voice.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's