By Joe Schmdbauer
Almost every day in the past fifteen years, I would go to Joe’s site, WNYPolitics.com and review the daily rap. It was like what Russians used to saying about reading the old Pravda. It was filled with info if you’re knew how to read it.
Joe got on board with the web and basically turned himself into a Buffalo Matt Drudge with all of the provincial sensibilities of Buffalo. In his early years, Joe got into a bit of trouble. He had a felony bank robbery conviction and spent a few quiet years of state employment. This was followed by bad check passing conviction. He was a guy looking for an angle and he found it in politics on the web.
Joe was an internet visionary and a throwback to another time in what is now called “professional journalism.” Joe became the gum-shoe-gossip column reporter, the guy who walked the subterranean world of hookers, dealers and thieves. He was the guy who was paid to get the dirt on the swells, who in many cases were the political enemies of the swell who was the newspaper owner or his friends, except Joe moved in the subterranean world of back room deals and pay-off of local politics.
Illuzzi understood the primary truth of a free press. Freedom of the press is for those who own the press- the web was his press.
To Joe’s credit he understood the truth behind the myth of journalism. It was and is a lie. Media is about power and power has no ethics and power equals money.
How does a gum-shoe gossip reporter make money? On the internet, he becomes the publisher and follows a simplified version of the business model of every newspaper. Every media outlet in Buffalo plays to power, to influence, to cash. The big time publisher or editor holds secret meetings with the local power brokers, for cash and power. The small community paper jerks off the advertisers for few extra bucks. The independent small time players call it a compromise to get their stories. The big guys (Buffalo News) say it all for the good of the community. Right!
Joe got it. You pay to play- get the dirt and sell it, trade it, and cash in on it. Burn those that do not pay - and then turn it into protection money. Hire yourself out as a media hit man- (The Buffalo News used many Illuzzi leads over the years). Local politicos paid up (fiction simply being a truth without a witness) and lived in fear. I always thought it was more of a commentary on the quality of the people who are running for office that they paid up to Illuzzi.
The high point of his work was with the Independence Party. He created a system (or rate card) of pay to play - WNYpolitics.com or the magazine WNYpolitics for an endorsement. The more important the endorsement, the bigger the check, the bigger the ad, the bigger the check, the bigger the hit on a local politico, the bigger the payoff.
He created a model that I am surprised has not been copied by other local political organizations. Grassroots, inc. was rumored to have simply sold endorsements, Tammany Hall style.
So Joe Illuzzi is gone- other bloggers spit on his memory and his work but the truth is Joe was part of the return of tabloid gossip political journalism, a discourse that continues to infect the body politic. (Matt Drudge, the Bill Clinton and Monica show, Andrew Briebart with Acorn and Congressmen Weiner, Ward Stone with ex-Governor Spitzer and god know hope many others.)
Locally, the blogosphere brought us the madness of Carl Paladino, and his horse porn, racist joke emails, Representative Chris Lee’s tranny dreams to live in the best of both worlds and gay literature mailed to Republicans trying to connect it to Senator Grisanti’s position on gay marriage.
So Joe has left behind a legacy that continues in the blogosphere and in the local body politic.
If there is a heaven and Joe is there, I am certain that Joe’s playing the angles to get the scoop on St. Peter for an extra piece of angel cake.