In Barney Collier; photographs by
This is a strange melange of characterizations of quotes from, and aspersions on members of the Washington press corps. Its premise is that since journalism’s pen proved mightier than Nixon’s sword, the victorious newsmen and-women are themselves due for cold-blood ed scrutiny.
But Collier has a store of his own, and if you want to hear what he got out of Scotty Reston, Art Buchwald, loans and Novak, Eric Sevareid, Sally Quinn, and Dan Rather, your’ve got to hear Barney’s blues too. Now a freelancer, he was once if not one of them, one of their kind: Barnard Law Collier was his by-line then; he was a Time and Herald-Tribune man, and later, the New York Times bureau chief in Buenos Aires, There, he tells us, he refined a gift for expense-account embezzlement. At times it seems as if his purpose here is to settle scores with the world of establishment journalism he has left behind.
Collier is interested in his subjects’ breakfast and lunch (especially lunch and especially the question of the check) habits, more so than in what they have to say about larger issues.
He is arbitrarily selective with what Washington correspondents have to say, and quick with insinuations when they choose to shut up. Pages are devoted to whether Rowland Evans told Collier he could see Evans’ tax returns. Meg Greenfield of the Washington Post doesn’t feel like telling Collier her salary; she must be one unhappy woman, thinks Collier. Sander Vanocur is condescendingly depicted as one of Camelot’s pathetic walking wounded, a pal of the Kennedys with no place to call work. Whatever the pathos of Vanocur’s situation. Collier and the editors of [MORE], a journalism review, obscured it when they ran the Vanocur chapters earlier this year, minus any acknowledgment of the fact (generally known in press circles, and mentioned in passing later in the book) that Edith Vanoeur was then dying of cancer. Stewart Alsop dies in the course of the book, as do Collier’s and his new wife. Maggi Castelloe’s, pet ducks. Alsop was quotable: the ducks were not.
Give Collier credit at least for letting his subjects speak, even when he is setting them up for the overkill. He quotes Sails Quinn at the end of an interview; “I get terrible vibes from you, and I don’t know why.”