It was nearly six years ago that the Boston Herald reported that then–Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle had lifted one-liners from a George Carlin book. The revelation came two months after Patricia Smith left the Globe for fabricating characters and quotes in her column.
Within weeks, Barnicle was gone, too, with the Phoenix reporting that he had ripped off a 1986 column from legendary press critic A.J. Liebling (see "Striking Similarities," News and Features, August 20, 1998), and the Globe itself announcing that Barnicle couldn’t produce sources for a 1995 column about kids with cancer.
So it was quite a shock at Wingo Square last Friday when word got around that newly named editorial director Ken Chandler — in one of his first acts since the departure of editor Andy Costello — would bring in Barnicle to write a twice-a-week column (see "Media Log," bostonphoenix.com, March 5).
Sources spoke candidly, though not for attribution, about a newsroom demoralized by Chandler’s and publisher Pat Purcell’s decision to bring in someone whose wrongdoing they had helped expose — although Herald staffer Lesley Phillips, president of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Boston, credits Chandler and Purcell for taking questions from staff members on Monday. "It was reassuring, but Barnicle will be under a microscope," Phillips says.
The following is a guide to the newsroom Barnicle will face whenever he pays a visit from his home, on the mean streets of Lincoln.
"At least 10 items in columnist Mike Barnicle’s Aug. 2 piece are remarkably similar to items in stand-up comic George Carlin’s best-selling 1997 book ‘Brain Droppings,’ bostonherald.com, the Boston Herald’s Web site, reported yesterday.
"In some instances, there is only a difference of a word or two. Barnicle, however, makes no attribution or reference to Carlin’s book."
— Mark A. Perigard
August 5, 1998
"I don’t think he’d meet our standards here."
— Then-editor Andy Costello
August 7, 1998
(Quoted in the Washington Post)
"Each time someone like Mike Barnicle steals somebody else’s work and arrogantly lies about it, a cloud of cynicism and suspicion drifts over all reporters and columnists."
— Wayne Woodlief
August 9, 1998
"Now Barnicle has gone the way of so many of the fallen, broken people he spent 25 years writing about. A powerful man abuses a trust and then lies. How many times have we read this? And why didn’t Barnicle learn from what he wrote?"
— Beverly Beckham
August 21, 1998
"What is bewildering is why a guy with an ego the size of Barnicle’s would stoop to steal someone else’s words? At least, according to the most recent revelations, he stole from the best. A.J. Liebling — damned impressive. And Mike Royko, one of the best big city columnists ever. A lot of folks wondered what Barnicle would do after Royko’s death. George Carlin was a damned poor substitute."
— Rachelle G. Cohen
August 21, 1998
"Fact: Bill Clinton has closed to within three apologies of breaking the record of most insincere mea culpas by a 50something congenital liar.
"The current record belongs to Mike Barnicle."
— Howie Carr
December 13, 1998
"Sources said Barnicle will write in a new, five-page opinion section for the New York Daily News Sunday edition but most of the staff is more than a little bit upset about this turn of events.
"‘I’m beside myself about this. Certainly, my resume is going out this week,’ said one disgruntled ink-stained wretch at the News.
"‘He makes stuff up, for God’s sakes. How can you work for a paper that would hire him?’ the source said....
"‘If I was independently wealthy, I’d quit right now,’ said another News staffer."
— Paul Sullivan
March 15, 1999
"Word from the Kennedy camp is that Sen. Ted Kennedy is still fuming over ex-Boring Broadsheet blowhard Mike Barnicle’s shameless shilling during the John F. Kennedy Jr. tragedy and that Barnicle has been ‘frozen out.’ ‘The senator,’ said a source, ‘will never speak to him again.’"
— "Inside Track"
August 20, 1999
"The disgraced ex-Globe fictioneer, fired after years of plagiarism and outright fabrication, has checked in with a Bill Bennett–like screed on the decline of morality in the United States of America.
"In last Sunday’s New York Daily News, he penned these heartfelt words: ‘Peer pressure and shame are dead in America.’
"Er, present company included, Mike?"
— "The Buzz"
August 22, 1999
"And what was it that Kevin Weeks’ favorite journalist and [Whitey] Bulger footman, the gone-but-not-forgotten Mike Barnicle, once wrote in the Globe? Something about how, in the end, we would all see that ‘Jimmy,’ as Mike always called him, had more ‘integrity’ than the U.S. government.
"Integrity — now there’s a perfect Bulger word."
— Peter Gelzinis
July 20, 2000
"‘Chronicle’ ... is not entirely above reproach. Contributor Mike Barnicle was given his job back at the program in 1998 despite admitting he had never read a book by comedian George Carlin that he had recommended to viewers.
"Barnicle dealt a serious blow to the solid ‘Chronicle’ credibility. He came across as a clown who demeaned and dumbed-down viewers by heartily suggesting a book he didn’t even bother to look at — nor did he seem fazed by his admission."
— Monica Collins
January 24, 2002
"At least Smith, a talented poet, got out of the business. Globe columnist Mike Barnicle, who resigned the same year in a controversy over material in his column, barely missed a beat: He still has gigs with the New York Daily News and talk-radio station WTKK-FM.
"‘With the media now, you don’t even have to go through contrition,’ said Kendall Dudley of Lifeworks, a Lexington career-counseling firm."
— Christopher Cox
May 18, 2003
"It wasn’t long ago that the Herald took an aggressive role in helping expose the numerous transgressions — among them plagiarism and fabrication — that led to Mike Barnicle’s rightful banishment from the Globe. We have great respect for Publisher Pat Purcell and Editorial Director Ken Chandler, but as hard-working Guild staffers we cannot remain silent in the face of such a troubling decision."
— More than 120 members of Local 31032
Newspaper Guild of Greater Boston
March 8, 2004
Issue Date: March 12 - 18, 2004
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