Monday, November 2, 2009

The Real Story of This NYC Election Season



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A couple of years ago I was emailed by someone identifying himself as a former NY1reporter who had left the station for allegedly making a fake phone call to "The Call," one of its programs. In his own defense, the caller had tossed around a number of anonymous gossip tidbits about other station staff. Nothing, that I recall, reflected negatively on NY1's former chief political reporter, Mr. Dominic Carter; in fact, he appeared to refer to Mr. Carter as the station's Best Reporter.

And that, too, was always my take. When I saw Dominic Carter at the first Mayoral Debate recently, he was just so professional onstage and personable in speaking with the audience, that you had to love the guy. He had just the right chemistry as the debate moderator, just as he had balancing the amusing journalistic hysteria of Gerson Borrero and Curtis Sliwa on the weekly "Political Rundown." I thought it strange recently that Mr. Borrero had become so incensed at some of Mr. Sliwa's on-camera silliness that Mr. Borrero stood and seemed to be physically challenging Mr. Sliwa to step outside and settle it.

That thought and image stayed with me, so it was absolutely bizarre when the NY Post broke the story about Dominic Carter's (to put it mildly) messy and apparently violent personal life. It is beyond a case of simple jurisprudence at this point. Like a figure from some Philip K. Dick novel, Dominic Carter has gone from speaking out, in what seemed most bizarre, against domestic violence in interview segments, to waking from some dream from which he cannot escape, and being accused of beating his wife by his wife, lying about it, trying to use his celebrity and political influence and contacts as a journalist, to escape the charges. The end runs that he and his wife have attempted to make around the resulting arrest and physical signs of domestic violence seemed to have gone from bathos to pathos and back again. One can feel sympathy for his wife, the apparent victim despite her disavowal, and disgust, pity and shock at the behavior of Mr. Carter.

Not everyone liked Dominic Carter. But he and his reporting provided a great inside look at politicians and players in NYC, and a he became a very prominent African American voice in NYC's political media. His recent book, No Momma's By, seemed, on the surface, a courageous effort at autobiography.The recent apotheosis of Mr. Carter and now his fall from grace, reflect a sad page in NY's media history. Although their stories, and denouement, are markedly different, I can only think of the analogous loss on the national level with the unexpected death of NBC journalist Tim Russert in the month's leading up to the Obama-McCain election and the selection of the first African American President. This writer will miss Mr. Carter's solid, if at times conservative, overly-judgmental and self-satisfied presence on NY1, on this and future election nights, and in the post-election period as we see what the "next" Mayor brings. The role of money and entrenched power in this imbalanced election is so profound,the election itself seems besides the point. That is why Mr. Carter seems to cast a large shadow in his absence, just as he did as a reporter on NY1. Whatever the exact truth, his life and his career are a mess and in a tail spin. Perhaps there is a message, cast in that long shadow, about ethics, truth and rightful behavior, by those in all walks of public life, who wield influence and power, mayors, elected officials, news anchors. Or tv talk show hosts.


However, while Mr Carter, in his book, seemed to offer to put it all on the table -- about his life in the projects, growing up in a dysfunctional family and how he overcame those odds -- in fact, he remained a mystery to his audience, to the folks that he interviewed, and worst of all, to himself. One can only hope that his wife, his family and of course Mr. Carter can recover, overcome, grow and find a suitable Second Act in their lives.

--Brooklyn Beat

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Current Reading

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