Today’s Insider Corner will report on the reporters. This column is the result of a conversation we had last night with a couple other “insiders” who have noticed that a certain trend among several newspaper and TV reporters is still alive and well. The trend is this; who you drink with affects who you write about.
This is nothing new, mind you. Back in the day it was common practice for the newspaper reporters to party with the back room political guys. Tips were handed out for every round that was purchased and lifelong friendships were made during those marathons as well. In this era there are probably three or four Buffalo News reporters who party with known politicians and their coverage reflects it.
At the top of the list would be Donn Esmonde. Donn is a columnist and not a reporter, but he likes to socialize with News reporter Matt Spina and they can be seen at numerous downtown locations like Mother’s and Founding Fathers. Donn tends to favor those he has been seen drinking with like Sam Hoyt and former County Executive Joel Giambra. Esmonde leans so far to the left that he has to drink exclusively with his right hand so he doesn’t spill any.
Esmonde also writes in a world of black and white, bad guys and good guys. That may be because he is a former sports reporter and columnist which is a world of wins and losses, home teams and visitors, a much more definitive environment than politics. Esmonde is not a bad guy, just very selective when it comes to pointing a finger. If you want a favorable column from Donnie then just buy the next round.
Matt Spina is not a native of Buffalo and still learning the environment. Spina actually lives in Syracuse on the weekend which means he is usually only seen out during the week. Matt is more of a straight shooter than Esmonde or McCarthy and that’s probably because he is a reporter and not a columnist.
Bob McCarthy is another guy who doesn’t mind a good time. Bobby is more of throw-back to the days of Jimmy Griffin and his kind and will not turn down an invitation to a party. Personally I probably like McCarthy the best and he could probably take down more than one political giant if he printed what he knew.
On the TV side, there are only a few who have been around long enough to really know the political scene and if they party it’s mostly out of sight. The days are gone when the likes of Tony Farina and Lee Coppola worked on TV and being former newspaper men, they liked the night life as well.
Scott Brown has long tenure at Ch 2 and has worked on the political side as well so he is probably the most knowledgeable. The one significant quality about Scott is that his past political career allows him to be an advocate for certain high ranking officials.
I’ll pass along this tip; you will never see Scott Brown do a hard hitting story about Mayor Byron Brown. Scott has a long standing relationship with the Mayor’s press secretary Peter Cutler and uses that relationship to pick up info about others. Kudos to Scott for working the system, but the day Cutler moves on Scott Brown loses a major source.
Rich Newberg from Ch 4 has probably covered local politics the longest, although he has never really nurtured any serious sources. I once heard one politician say “you could feed Newberg a plate full of #@*# and he would ask for seconds.” One would think someone who has been working in Buffalo for over twenty years would be a bit savvier, but Newberg only seems to grasp the obvious.
On radio there is no reporter who really comes to mind as far as covering the political scene. Kevin Hardwick does a two hour Sunday morning show, but he is definitely not someone you would see out in the bars. Local radio really lets the Buffalo News drive the bus and they follow what ever gets printed each day.
Now for the sake of transparency, we here at the Insider Corner do partake in adult beverages and have been known to repeat what we hear while doing it. That’s what makes this column so interesting.
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