The Boston Phoenix
August 10 - 17, 2000

[Don't Quote Me]

Saint Joseph, continued

by Dan Kennedy

BARNICLE has reinvented himself.

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, part of the Poynter Institute's Web site.

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, 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.

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Dan Kennedy's work can be accessed from his Web site:

Dan Kennedy can be reached at dkennedy[a]

Articles from July 24, 1997 & before can be accessed here