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Briscoe Center Acquires The Wayne Barrett Papers


Wayne Barrett, 2016

The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin has acquired the papers of Wayne Barrett (1945–2017). Barrett was a renowned investigative reporter for New York City’s Village Voice whose work targeted an entire generation of city leadership and focused on political scandal. His groundbreaking work into the early career of Donald Trump made him a latter-day authority for a new generation of reporters interested in the character and psyche of America’s 45th president. 

“The Barrett Papers show us a highly regarded investigative journalist at work,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “His vast collection of research files offers a unique window into New York City politics over the last four decades and touches upon the careers of many of the city’s political and civic leaders. His research on the pre-presidential career of Donald Trump is a treasure of information that will serve as a valuable historical resource for years to come.  The Barrett Papers is an outstanding addition to the center’s rapidly growing collections documenting the history of the American news media. I am grateful to the Barrett family for donating this significant archive to the Briscoe Center.”

Barrett grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, in the 1950s. Briefly a Catholic seminarian, he first became interested in journalism as a student at St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia. Having earned a master’s degree at the Columbia School of Journalism in the late 1960s, Barrett became a schoolteacher and community activist in Brooklyn. He joined the staff of the Village Voice in 1973.

Barrett’s preferred focus was political corruption, and over the years he became renowned for documenting the missteps of New York’s elite around issues including land development and real estate, crime and policing, health care, education, and pollution. Aside from Trmp, some of his most important work focused on the careers of Hillary Clinton, mayors Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch, and Governor Andrew Cuomo. His books included Trump: The Deals and the Downfall (1991), City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York (1988), and Rudy: An Investigative Biography of Rudy Giuliani (2001).

Barrett’s papers (290 linear feet) consist mainly of research notes related to his investigative reporting. Materials include articles, clippings, correspondence, research notes, court documents, manuscript drafts, campaign records, and interview transcripts. Barrett also wrote extensive notes on many of the manila folders in which he stored his research materials. The papers are currently being processed by staff at the Briscoe Center and will be made available for research later in the year. The center’s collections related to investigative reporting include the Jack Newfield Papers (Newfield worked at the Village Voice with Barrett and co-wrote City for Sale) as well as the Jules Witcover Papers and the archives of many television documentary producers and reporters.

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