Saint Joseph, continued
by Dan Kennedy
Who is Eugene Kennedy? Answer number one: no relative of mine. Answer number
two: a professor emeritus at Loyola University, a biographer of Cardinal Joseph
Bernardin, and the author of a long, florid apologia for former Boston
Globe columnist Mike Barnicle that was published last week on Jim
Romenesko's MediaNews.org, part of the Poynter Institute's Web site.
has reinvented himself.
According to Romenesko's introduction, Kennedy's "Mike Barnicle and American
Twilight" came his way after it was rejected by "a few journalism
publications." No surprise there. Kennedy twists himself into knots in
attempting to discredit very credible charges that Barnicle had lifted
one-liners from a George Carlin book (that story, broken by the Boston
Herald, led to a two-month suspension) and that he had partly fabricated a
1995 column about two kids with cancer -- the reason the Globe cited as
the proximate cause for his departure, on August 19, 1998. Kennedy's
conclusion: Barnicle was punished for the sins of Patricia Smith, the fiction
writer who resigned from the Globe two months before Barnicle.
The rest of Barnicle's record is left out entirely. Kennedy makes no mention of
a Boston Phoenix article showing that Barnicle, in a 1986 column, had
lifted extensively from an A.J. Liebling biography of Louisiana political
legend Earl Long, The Earl of Louisiana -- right down to Liebling's
idiosyncratic spelling and punctuation. (Barnicle left the Globe for
good several hours after an advance copy of the Phoenix's report had
been released to the national and local media.) Nor does Kennedy deal in any
substantive way with the fact that Barnicle's entire 25-year career had been
marred by serious, repeated accusations of plagiarism and fabrication.
Still, the piece makes for fascinating reading. Barnicle apparently showed
Kennedy his private correspondence with Globe editor Matt Storin,
including positive work evaluations from years past and oddly supportive notes
written when everything was unraveling. Even better are the letters to
MediaNews.org, which include fan mail for Barnicle from celebrity pals such as
Norman Mailer, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Richard Goodwin, as well as a number
of outraged responses (including two from yours truly).
Give Barnicle credit for rebuilding his career, which includes a weekly column
in the New York Daily News, a daily talk show on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), a
correspondent's job with Channel 5's Chronicle, and various talking-head
appearances. Whatever else he may be, he's talented and knows how to get
maximum mileage out of his well-connected friends. But the continued attempts
to deny reality won't wash -- whether it's former Globe editor Tom
Winship defending him in a letter to Brill's Content earlier this year
("Sure, he overreached and blew more than one story," Winship wrote, making it
sound as though Barnicle's transgressions were entirely accidental) or Eugene
Kennedy's ludicrous opus.
Articles from July 24, 1997 & before can be accessed here