Top of Mind: Mike Barnicle

Journalist, Long-Distance Commuter, Father of Seven, Survivor, Age 65, Lincoln.

mike barnicle

mike IN MANHATTAN: “New York is about success. In New York, there is only one question asked: ‘Can you get it done?’ Then it’s up to you. It’s a magnificent city.” (photograph by ben baker)

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.

Here are some of the best quotes pulled from his interview with Boston editor James Burnett.

I am constantly amazed at the number of people who think I’m just on vacation. People who call me with story ideas, something that happened to them. No exaggeration, four or five times a week.

Yes, I do miss it. I miss what the business used to be. I’m glad it’s still around. I hope it’s around forever. I sometimes have my doubts.

I could do it seven days a week. Still today.

I never sat there and thought, “I’ll show ’em,” or, “I’ll change things.” You can make people laugh, you can make people cry, but it’s a bridge too far to make people think.

They [the New York Times Company] should have sold the Globe to us. There was an offer on the table. A pretty good one, too—I think it was around $600 million. It was a different economy then. It was a different world then. You can’t tell me they wouldn’t love to have the same offer now.

I’m a Catholic. We’re in the forgiveness business. That’s probably been heightened over the past decade or so. Doesn’t make you any more insightful, but it might give you the appearance of being more thoughtful.

I see Alan [Dershowitz, Harvard Law professor and one-time foe] a lot. I see him at Fenway Park. As a matter of fact, I got him a couple of tickets to a playoff game a couple of years ago. Alan’s a good guy. The sun comes up every day, you know. Every day is new.

I have 10 Red Sox season tickets. People were buying beachfront property; I was buying season tickets.

I don’t speak to my wife [Bank of America marketing chief Anne Finucane] about her business. I don’t understand her business. My wife is so much smarter than I am that I don’t go there. She gives me an allowance every week that I’m very grateful for, and that’s about it.

[Quitting] the Herald column was a case of me having too many other things to do. They were paying me an awful lot of money, and they don’t have an awful lot of money. After a while, it wasn’t a very good fit. Largely because of me, not them.

I’m not a romantic about print. Maybe once was, but not anymore.

Apparently huge numbers of people in the Boston media establishment are so insecure in their own positions that they fear me coming in to see Paul La Camera at WBUR for lunch, which I guess is sort of flattering.

The thing with media criticism is that if someone who has never met you, has never shaken your hand, never looked you in the eye, is then going to spend a good portion of their life critiquing what you write, or what you do, in the larger sense of the meaning of “do,” you should pay no attention to them. I never gave a shit about that stuff. You know why? I never read it. I never read it.

Why were you surprised that I said yes to this interview?

I do still smoke cigars. Cohiba Robustos. Just maybe two or three a month, ’cause they’re so expensive.


Go on to the next page to see an extended version of this Q+A from which these quotes were excerpted.