Top of Mind: Jack Williams, Extended Version

By James Burnett | Boston Magazine |

JB: In general, where do you turn for information?

JW: I always start my day with the computer. And I get hard copies of the paper delivered to the station, so as the night goes on I’ll go through them. I start with the Globe, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, and a couple of small player papers in communities I’m interested in. When you’re online, one of the dangers is that you do a lot more scanning than you do reading. There’s something about picking up a paper that forces you to go through it all. I find it much more fun.

I’ve subscribed to the New Yorker. I think American Scholar is pretty interesting. I like Charlie Rose—my car radio can pick up TV so I listen to his show on my way home. He’s really good with his interviews.

I refuse to go to bed unless I’ve read something. When I go home, Marci’s usually asleep, but I like to put on classical music and I try to read for an hour. I have a can of beer or glass of wine or something, and that’s what I want to do. I spend a lot of time with biographies. Once in a while I’ll go off and just do some real pleasure reading. I finished a book the night before last, one in the Inspector Montalbano series by this Sicialian writer, Andrea Camilleri. Delightful.

I just finished a wonderful new biography on Lincoln called by Ronald C White Jr. Before that there was one of the best books I’ve ever read on Winston Churchill, Warlord, by Carlo D’Este. You know, when you juxtapose those two you realize very quickly it’d be a lot more enjoyable to spend time with Abraham Lincoln than an egomaniac like Churchill….

JB: You mentioned earlier to be a great writer you read great writing. Who are your broadcast role models?

JW: Certainly Walter Cronkite. My first job was at a CBS station, and I got to know him fairly well. I liked that whole group of former print journalists who got into broadcasting during World War II, of whom only Andy Rooney is still managing to eke out a living. Charlie Rose, I can’t stay enough about. In print, a must-read today is of all people a Republican: David Brooks. He just gets it. I imagine most of the time the Republicans are ready to shoot him, but he is really good.

…Great historians…I suppose if I could be anybody at all, I would be David McCullough. Of the past 15 or 20 years, he’d be it. What a voice, of The Civil War. And his books are really first-rate books, and he’s got a great life.