Top of Mind: Mike Barnicle
Is it possible Mike Barnicle is still the most obsessed-about journalist in town? One could make the case: Consider the fuss when he joined Jack Connors and Jack Welch in trying to buy the Globe, and the further fuss that followed his rumored job talks with WBUR. Meanwhile, more than a decade after losing his marquee Globe column for sins against journalism, Barnicle is a fixture on NBC and MSNBC, and fields assignments from Newsweek and Time. On 12/5 at the Charles Hotel, he talked with Boston about those projects—and shared his thoughts on a few other topics, too.
Burnett: And it is a curious thing. None of the issues you get locally translates with these folks that you know on the national level or in New York or outside of 128. There’s a gulf there, or a disparity.
Barnicle: We live in perhaps the most parochial area of the United States. And clearly off the reaction of the WBUR thing, there obviously must be more than several people in the local media who think Lake Persimmon is the Pacific Ocean, that this is the entire media world here. And apparently some of them feel very threatened by anyone coming in the door. Not just me, but especially me. I have no explanation for that. I don’t know them. No one ever called me, from WBUR or anywhere else and said, “What are you doing? How can you think of coming over here? We’re better than you.” I never heard that. I never spoke to Paul La Camera about “I’ll do this three days a week, and you’ll pay me this, and I’ll do that.”
Burnett: How does all of that hit you on a personal level?
Barnicle: It doesn’t. I get amused by it when it happens. But I am extraordinarily lucky. I live a marvelously ordinary life. Most of the people I see over the course of the week are people I’ve known for years. We have seven children. We’re invested in all of our kids. They keep us very busy, and they keep us very happy. I have a wonderful marriage. So, if someone is going to get bent out of shape at WBUR because I show up there one day, I don’t really give a shit, and I don’t really think about it. I am sure maybe some of them, and not necessarily just at that particular place, and there are an awful lot of really small people in this life of ours. We all meet them, but I have no time for them.
Burnett: I was going to ask if you have any thoughts about semi-retiring?
Barnicle: When you retire, you’re dead.
Burnett: What’s something else that would surprise people about you?
Barnicle: I don’t know. I’m not cute or whatever. Maybe how ordinary my life is. Maybe that.
Burnett: You talked about your kids, your work. What’s it filled with, other than family?
Barnicle: Baseball. I have 10 season tickets. People were buying beachfront property. I was buying season tickets.
Burnett: How many games do you get to?
Barnicle: About 60. I usually arrange the work schedule around the baseball schedule. My work schedule is altered drastically from April through early October.
Burnett: How do you feel about the team? Any one player that fascinates you?
Barnicle: What do they need? They need a bat. They need a stick.
Burnett: I was surprised you agreed to this. Should I have been?
Barnicle: No. Why were you surprised that I agreed to do this interview?
Burnett: Because of the magazine’s history.
Barnicle: It gets to what we were talking earlier, and this is the truth, on my children. On my children… I guess on the average of 10 out of 12 issues a year, for a period of several years, I understand, you’d have one thing or another on the magazine, touching me up. On what? I don’t know. No insult intended, I never read it, never looked at it, and on my children, in the course of how many years it went on, I never had, I don’t think, more than three people mention it to me. And that’s no reflection on your magazine or your ability as an editor, and you probably weren’t even there then. So on my children, that’s an honest answer.
Burnett: Do you still smoke cigars?
Barnicle: I do. Cubans. Cohiba Robustos.
Burnett: Your doctor cannot like that.
Barnicle: I smoke maybe two or three a month ’cause they’re so expensive.