By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Paul La Camera on Mike Barnicle

Paul La Camera, general manager of WBUR Radio (90.9 FM), e-mails Media Nation about a recent report by Adam Reilly at that he may bring former Boston Globe and sometime Boston Herald columnist Mike Barnicle to the public-radio powerhouse to do commentary:

Dan —

I write this as an individual with a personal history in the matter and not in any way on behalf of WBUR. I am also specifically directing this to you, since it appears your Media Nation site has become a certain center for the controversy.

Of course, the matter or the controversy I am citing are related to my long-time association with and still strong feelings for Mike Barnicle.

Not to rehash history of a decade ago, but when I stood with Mike some 10 years ago at WCVB-TV, it was based on what then was a 15-year working relationship during which he served our station in the highest professional manner. As you and others remind me, there was the George Carlin summer reading recommendation, which I continue to believe was blown out of proportion and hardly was a capital offense, particularly in light of 15 years of distinguished and unquestioned work.

If you recall, the frenzy even extended to irresponsible accusations about Mike’s military service claims. I was always grateful that I was able to address and right those charges as well.

Since all of the above transpired, including what occurred at the Globe, Mike has worked for any number of news organizations, including, NBC, MSNBC, and I understand is currently preparing reports on the Pennsylvania Primary for the Today Show.

As I said to Adam Reilly of the Phoenix, it has been 10 years. From any rational perspective, as evidenced by the above listing of media outlets of the highest standards and standing, it is time to move on.

Mike has a remarkable gift and I continue to believe his voice is missed in Boston.

Paul La Camera

So — will Barnicle actually pop up on WBUR’s airwaves? Stay tuned.

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Patrick’s unfortunate NYT close-up


Where was Patrick?


  1. Anonymous

    Unbelievable. La Camera needs to go.Mr. La Camera, if you read this – rest assured, many of us will stop contributing if Barnicle is hired.

  2. mike_b1

    Mike Barnicle has a remarkable gift?George Carlin has a remarkable gift. Mike Royko had a remarkable gift. A.J. Leibling had a remarkable gift. What Barnicle has are sticky fingers. And based on his unwillingness to admit to his crimes, a persecution complex. There’s nothing remarkable about stealing. And just because we forgive someone for theft doesn’t mean we should let him back in our house.

  3. Anonymous

    “15 years of distinguished and unquestioned work”?Is this accurate? Was Barnicle’s work “unquestioned” for 15 years?

  4. Anonymous

    What is truly amazing here is that La Camera portrays the Carlin incident as a singular event. There had been charges of fabrication/plagurism for years – go ask the late, great Mike Royko. The Globe ended up going back to past columns and asked Barnicle to substantiate some of them. Apparently he could not do so.Barnicle may be a great partner on the golf course or to share a drink with. I strongly suspect that his rehabiliation on the outlets that La Camera cited had a lot to do with his vast connections.Can anyone tell us where Patricia Smith is today? While she committed the same offense, she didn’t have the same pedigree. Maybe WBUR should hire her?

  5. Skip Pile Boston

    In the past 25 years Mike Barnicle and Paul LaCamera have done more to legitimize and add a credible voice to Boston-based news and commentary than any 10 other reporters or editors in the city. Combined.

  6. Anonymous

    EB3 hereGood for you LaCamera!

  7. jvwalt

    To me, the plagiarism isn’t even the biggest thing here. Not that I want to ignore that, but… if Barnicle is capable of being what he used to be, the wiseguy columnist with an ear to the Boston street, then he could bring something to WBUR. But in recent years, he’s become a generic cable-news talking head with no fastball. If that’s all there is, then he brings absolutely nothing to the table.

  8. Anonymous

    Ernie, man – we don’t tell you how to dial back the odometers, okay?

  9. Ron Newman

    If WBUR wants to quickly ruin the sterling reputation it has rightfully earned over the past two decades, it can do no better than to hire Mike Barnicle.

  10. O'Reilly

    Provincial cynicism. That is Barnicle’s unique contribution to journalism in the Hub. Is his brother still on the job? If not, he has nothing by way of those ‘on the street’ stories that both propelled him forward and sunk him in the end. Why hire a guy with that history who hasn’t made the effort to reinvent himself, as a journalist. He’s just moved on. Has his work ever been more than just average?

  11. Anonymous

    What’s remarkable about LaCamera’s email is that he refuses to acknowledge that Barnicle spent nearly 25 years fabricating sources and committing plagiarism, as Dan reported for The Phoenix years ago. LaCamera cites a few of Barnicle’s minor ethical ‘lapses’ but fails to mention the successful lawsuits brought against Barnicle while he was a Globe columnist and the plain fact that the public no longer trusts what Barnicle writes or says.LaCamera also believes that his opinion of a disgraced media figure should somehow be understood as unrelated to his public role as the General Manager of WBUR. His claim is laughable. He now heads an organization whose financial survival depends on public trust. Said bluntly, I don’t need to contribute to WBUR. I can get the same stories from the sources who actually produce real news: The Globe, The Herald and The New York Times. I give money to WBUR because I value the accurate news analysis and commentary produced by the station. Barnicle’s history makes him wholly unsuited for any role therein.Jerry McFaddenDorchester

  12. Anonymous

    ” including what occurred at the Globe”, is like saying “that unfortunate experience in Indochina”. I went to BC with Paul. He was full of it then and still is. It’s good to pick the right parents.


    Does this man belong on public radio?

  14. Anonymous

    I am aghast at the idea of contributing to a station that would have a bum (and I do mean bum) like Mike Barnicle on the air.Obviously, the Old Boy Network of Boston is doing its best to help out an old friend. Paul LaCamera, don’t you know your own station?jk

  15. man who is a wbur fan

    Anon 10:34, I personally am a fan of the phrase “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” :-)Seriously though, I don’t get it. “it has been 10 years…it is time to move on” ???I thought LaCamera knew Boston? I mean, he’s been touted as much and most of his track record indicates he does. So where the heck is this coming from? Boston is the town that NEVER forgives and NEVER forgets.Good lord, there are blocks in Southie where it never stopped being the 1970’s. Hell, look at the pre-2004 Red Sox. After 85 years, was it time to move on?Perhaps more relevant, what’s this bullcrap that Barnicle is the best WBUR can do? My god, this town is DROWNING in ultra-qualified radio talent. And it’s only getting moreso with all the bloodletting in commercial radio today, and the soon to be bloodletting after XM & Sirius satellite radio merge in a few months.I can easily think of a half-dozen people…just off the top of my head…who’d be better commentators, reporters, or hosts on WBUR than Barnicle. I can’t believe that of the hundreds of perfectly qualified potentials in this city, not ONE of them would be better than Barnicle. And that’s even if you overlook the plagiarism thing, which I don’t think WBUR should. Regardless of whether La Camera thinks it’s time to move on, it certainly seems several of us on MediaNation don’t think so. I said it before: perception matters. When your perception is that you provide news people can trust, then you really have to have a squeaky-clean image. Otherwise the perception is that of hypocrisy, plain and simple. And to take a look at the bigger picture for a moment, why is La Camera seemingly so hellbent to hire everyone BUT radio people at WBUR? News Director John Davidow? RadioBoston host David Boeri? On Point senior producer Wen Stephenson? Former Managing Editor John Marcus? Even now as he defends Barnicle’s record, I haven’t seen one word about Barnicle’s long stint on WTKK…it’s all about the work he did back at WCVB.I don’t deny that all those hires might’ve been at least, if not more, qualified than a “radio guy”. But I’m sensing a trend that La Camera keeps trying to pound a TV “square peg” management approach into a radio “round hole” situation. Perhaps after 30+ years of running a TV station, it’s hard to switch gears. But it’s been over two years now…the honeymoon’s over.C’mon Paul! Try looking at people you’re not close friends with for a change! Nobody’s going to fault you if you quietly back away from this idea, let things settle for six or twelve months, then re-examine the talent pool and pick someone with “less baggage”.

  16. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    To a journalist, credibility is like virginity; it is only lost once.Barnicle’s work over the past year has been based not in reporting, which is the foundation of column-writing, but in making smart-ass comments for such atrocities as the Imus radio program, his own mail-it-in gabfest on WTKK and whatever cable chat show needs a few glib remarks during those infuriating pseudo-debate segments.Let us not attach any sort of journalistic credibility to cable television’s quest for a vast arsenal of glib talking heads to toss barbs at each other in “discussion” of the hot issue of the hour. In this regard, Barnicle is nothing more than Ann Coulter with a receding hairline — all one-liners and no substance.The facts are, he committed what to journalism were most certainly multiple capital offenses, he has added nothing to public discourse over the past decade despite an incredible platform and opportunity to do so courtesy of his and his wife’s far-reaching network of buddies, and, most damning of all, his life’s work shows none of the journalistic skill that one would associate with someone employed by WBUR.

  17. Dan Kennedy

    Amused: Actually, I think Ann Coulter has a receding hairline.

  18. Anonymous

    Is there room for another radio station? A sort of “news and history the way it should be” station? They could have all the fabricators of the day: Barnacle, Carr, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Patricia Smith, Joseph Ellis, and pretty much anyone from FOX, and most any pundit from any talking head show.On second thought, we’ve got enough of those already.

  19. Anonymous

    this must define BUR’s demo strategy. lecamera is saying, ‘okay, forget the young demo. let’s put this anachronism on the air, and grab the oldtimers.’maybe anachronism isn’t the right word. perhaps caricature.

  20. Anonymous

    I got a chuckle out of LaCamera’s citing MSNBC, NBC and Newsweek as “media outlets of the highest standards.”NBC – Caught staging accidents to prove a vehicle is unsafe.Newsweek – Had the Clinton/Lewinsky story and refused to go with it.MSNBC – Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.Glen BergendahlWeymouth

  21. Anonymous

    Dan, promise me you’ll publish something cataloguing Barnicle’s various misdeeds, in the Phoenix or something.Please?

  22. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 1:34: It’s already been done. You’ll find the historical overview here, and the Liebling story here. I’m of a mixed mind about this. I have no desire endlessly to relive the Mike Barnicle saga. But the record is the record, so there you go.

  23. man who's a wbur fan

    Anon 10.12, isn’t that what WRKO is? OHHH SNAP!!! :-)Anon 11.43am, you may have a point, but don’t assume that it’s automatically wrong for La Camera to pursue the older demographic at the expense of the younger. There have been many years of warnings that pubradio must do more to attract younger listeners, yet every time a station (or network) tries to do so…the existing donor base recoils in horror and the ratings (and donations) plummet. It’s all well and good to say you need to build a new audience for tomorrow, but it’s not much good if you kill your station off today in the process.That said, I still think there are plenty of old-timers with a helluva lot more talent, and less baggage, than Barnicle.

  24. Anonymous

    Dan, if you go back and read your own work on Barnicle, how can you possibly say, “I’m of a mixed mind about this”?

  25. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 1:58: Let me clarify. I certainly don’t think WBUR should bring Barnicle in. I’m of a mixed mind about getting pulled into it again. As I said previously, I have no desire endlessly to relive the Mike Barnicle saga.

  26. Anonymous

    LaCamera’s email is typical of the out-of-touch thinking among old-media figures. It’s like he’s saying, ‘here’s what I want to do, and to hell with what the community thinks.’ Too bad the community pays the bills.He, his attitude and his cronies from channel 5 are all anachronisms.Jerry McFaddenDorchester

  27. Ron Newman

    Re: “I can easily think of a half-dozen people…just off the top of my head…who’d be better commentators, reporters, or hosts on WBUR than Barnicle.”I agree. How about Chris Lydon, or … Dan Kennedy?

  28. Dan Kennedy

    Gee, Chris Lydon is kind of under-employed these days, isn’t he? The question is whether he could ever be talked into coming back in a commentator capacity, as opposed to the full-scale, large-staff production he had before. Tom Ashbrook’s got that now, and I’m sure ‘BUR doesn’t have the budget for two shows like that. Indeed, that was the rationale for laying off Dick Gordon.

  29. Aaron Read

    Jerry, I’m not disagreeing with you per se, but remember that GM’s of any media outlet typically deal with crackpots day in and day out, spouting ideology about how the station should be run.With that in mind, Paul’s email is a little more understandable.FWIW, I don’t think Barnicle should be on WBUR either…I think amusedbutinformedobserver’s first sentence sums it up perfectly.

  30. Anonymous

    C’mon, Dan, one more, just for old time’s sake.

  31. Anonymous

    I repeat what I wrote last week when this news broke. It was transparently obvious that Paul LaCamera was a horrible hire at the very time he took the job. (Sorry, Dan, but you should have known it then.) He made his money in commercial television, so now he is going to bring his Midas touch to public radio? I stopped contributing to WBUR after 15 years immediately following his apppointment. As for Barnicle, in addition to his mendacity, he is a 100% hypocrite. Remember his tone of contrition after he was raked over the coals during the final Globe episodes? He vowed never to treat people the same way again. (As if he shouldn’t have known that before his experience.) Nonetheless, once he was rehabilitated by Imus et al, he returned to his vicious, gratuitously sarcastic attacks on anyone he could find. Paul LaCamera’s point about giving Barnicle a break after 10 years is a classic non-sequitur. Barnicle does not deserve to be hired because of who he is, as well as who he was. But then again, don’t worry Paul. I won’t be contributing to WBUR again until you are gone and Barnicle is not there.

  32. Alex Beam

    Barnicle is such a piece of work! A move to public radio would be fraught with irony. I remember him trashing Chris Lydon back during one of Chris’s many Times of Tribulations. “What’s Lydon got on public radio? 75 listeners?” Barnicle crowed from his lofty ‘TKK perch.At the time — and I doubt these numbers have changed one whit — ‘BUR was crushing ‘TKK in every time slot, most especially Barnicle’s, where he was, to coin a phrase, Lydon and Ashbrook’s bitch.But in Boston, it’s always payback. In a lengthy essay, I forget where, Lydon had tagged Barnicle with the enduring epithet: “Often in error, never in doubt.” AB

  33. Anonymous

    Ok .. OK! … OK!!… In a statement effective 1 April, WBUR and Paul La Camera announced that in lieu of Mike Barnicle as a new guest commentator, Boston’s pub – yakker is pleased to welcome the intellectual heavy weight radio team of Majorie Eagan and Jim Braude to the station. Industry insiders and radio talk fans hailed this coup as a major step upward in intellectual content from the previously rumored Barnicle hiring.

  34. Anonymous


  35. Anonymous

    I really wish WBUR would have someone of the calibre and integrity or Amy Goodman, She certainly isn’t available to them for hire (nor would “NEWS” be well served by having her under their numbing control), but her show could easily be carried by WBUR, and would be much easier to catch it that way than getting it off cable – it only airs at noon and 6pm in Arlington, and neither time is good, and BC’s signal at noon is weak and still is a bad time for me.So I have to use the Internet, but would much prefer having her hour show on WBUR perhaps mid afternoon and sometime in the evening. Even late at night would be better than the too much of the BBC we get now.

  36. Anonymous

    I don’t even know where WBUR is, but would find it if Barnicle was hKennedired. Was his a life sentence?

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