Sunday, May 17, 2020

WARD HARKAVY, 1947-2020.

During lockdown I've been remiss about looking in on friends who've dropped off the grid, and didn't know Ward Harkavy had been sick until he was dead -- recovering from an infection when he got hit with COVID-19.

In 2008, I parachuted into the Voice from essentially nowhere (this guy has a blog, you say?) and was suddenly surrounded by people who knew not only more about journalism than I did  -- not excluding the kids who wrote calendar items --  but in many cases knew everything about journalism. The guys who put me at ease were Tony Ortega, whose experiment I was, and Ward, the news editor, who managed to give me the impression that the job was not actually that hard.

For him it wasn't. Ward was a real journeyman. He had banged around Arizona papers and the New Times alt-media conglomerate for years and had done all kinds of reporting, but was especially interested in the politics of our low mean time (still ongoing) and the Voice gave him room to ruminate on it under various column headings -- Morning Report, The Smart Asset, Bush Beat, et alia.  For a while he ran Press Clips, which had become an media-criticism institution under Geoffrey Stokes and Alexander Cockburn, and kept the adversarial posture but also made it fun and breezy -- e.g., "Another rich putz gets bailout money," which turns out to be about newly acquired Mets pitcher J.J. Putz, ha ha. But he also covered the coverage on actual corporate bailouts ("Real motherfuckers: AIG still hands out bonuses") and such shondas as Abu Ghraib, with tags like "PRISONERS (COWERING)" and "PRISONERS (MASTURBATING)," and exposed such newspeak oddities as the "incorporeity damages" that stood for damages assessed by courts when U.S. troops murder civilians.

Also Ward had done heavy background work on the rightwing propaganda movement -- see for example this 1994 Westword article about Paul Weyrich's C-NET cable venture and precursor to Fox News, rich in details about the seminal wingnut. You can see how he and I would get along. We commiserated on the horrible events of the day while trading stupid jokes and sidewalk smokes.

I moved on, he kept on; occasionally the higher-ups let me do my rightbloggers column for the Voice while Ward and a rotating cast tried to keep the show going. When they fired him in 2011, he seemed resigned -- that's how the Voice has always done things -- and more or less content to retire to his Long Island home, take up running, and shoot spitballs on social media. When the Voice itself went under, Ward hoped someone would pick up my column. (No one did, but that's okay; I'm still peddling my papers, so to speak.)

On his Twitter header, Ward wrote, "Every day I try to write part of Trump's obit." I regret to say that it looks like it went the other way. But the great work he was part of goes on, and I expect we'll get some payback. I'll do my bit anyway. Meanwhile stay close to your friends, especially the ones you figured would always be around.

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