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

Howie Carr, working-class hero

I know we’re not supposed to take Howie Carr seriously when he writes about the Boston Globe. But check out his Boston Herald column today. “Danny Donuts” is Dan Totten, president of the Boston Newspaper Guild. Carr writes:

Let’s face it, the Globe is on the ropes because it’s crammed to the rafters with writers who can’t write, reporters who can’t report, and editors who can’t edit, because Danny Donuts and his cohorts couldn’t sell an ad to save their inherited, tastefully weathered summer homes on Nantucket.

Now here is Jason Schwartz, describing Totten’s background in a Boston Magazine profile:

Totten first got active in the union in 2002, and it was a natural fit. His father was a member of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association for more than 35 years, his sister was a union representative for the Boston school system, and his grandmother had been a steward for the hotel and telephone workers union “back in a time,” Totten says, “when it wasn’t very popular or easy for a woman to hold such a position.”

We also learn from Schwartz that Totten is a graduate of the former Boston State College, surely one of the forgotten Ivies, and earned his MBA at Anna Maria College in Paxton, widely regarded as the Wharton School of Central Massachusetts.

Carr, meanwhile, lives in Wellesley and makes some three-quarters of a million dollars from his talk show on WRKO Radio (AM 680), as well as a presumed six-figure income from the Herald. He’s also a graduate of Deerfield Academy and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — a real working-class hero.

For Howie to characterize a self-made man like Totten as overprivileged is laughable, bordering on the offensive.

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  1. LFNeilson

    Yeah, but you gotta remember when Howie was living in a rent-controlled apartment in Cambridge — even as he was well along on his high-paying career.And his assessment of the Globe's troubles is overly simplistic, much like his take on many subjects. zzzz

  2. Dan Kennedy

    LFNeilson: Overly simplistic doesn't even begin to describe the problem. As I and others have pointed out repeatedly, the Globe today probably has as many readers as it's ever had.

  3. mike_b1

    Not to mention the paper Carr works for has been comatose for years. Hypocrite, thy name is Howie.

  4. matteomht

    Everything Howie writes is laughable and bordering on offensive. What's news here?

  5. lkcape

    A slight aside: While The Globe's circulation may not have changed much, the population base of their service area has increased dramatically. The number to look at is their penetration of the market. The Globe's reach may not be what it once was.As for Howie Carr? I would suspect that he has worked hard for his "success", just as Rush has. But Don Imus and Howard Stern also worked hard for their successes, too.Carr's contention is amusing, but "offensive" implies a level of moral indignation that I'm not sure can be sustained.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Ikcape: Nationally, newspaper circulation has been falling since the 1920s.

  7. lkcape

    And likely to fall further.As for Mr. Carr, he is about as "offensive" as a tourist on the Freedom Trail.

  8. George

    Howie's origins were definitely working class and the reason he went to Deerfield Academy was because his father was a groundskeeper there. Whether you like him or hate him, Howie is a great example of an American success story.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    George: Too bad the experience left him with a two-ton chip on his shoulder.

  10. Michael Pahre

    As long as you're on the topic of right-wing talk radio guys who are utter hypocrites on class issues, might we bring Jimmy Severino into the conversation?You suspected that he would be getting a pay cut as part of going back to work at WTKK. Is that the case? He had previously said on his show that he lived in a precarious financial situation — day-to-day, paycheck-to-paycheck, or something like that.If Severino, aka Jay Severin, gets a paycheck, will that mean that the bank will foreclose on his manse in tony Manchester-by-the-Sea? Or is he another case of a make-believe working-class-stiff like Howie Carr? And how about Bill O'Reilly, the self-described "working-class Irish American" pulling down seven figures?

  11. lkcape

    Salaries reflect the number of "trained seals" in the audience, be they left-handed seals or right.

  12. Steve

    "laughable, bordering on the offensive"That pretty much sums up my take on Howie, but hey, given the income figures you've cited it seems to be working for him.And what's this obsession with the phrase "trained seals" all of a sudden? It seems I'm reading it everywhere nowadays.

  13. io saturnalia!

    Don't worry, Steve. Soon they'll be "thrown under the bus," too.As for Howie — like Christopher Hitchens — I enjoy him when he's being the social contrarian and, on his shows, when he takes off on popular culture. The guy can be funny, after all. But too many times, he just drags out the anti-Democrat/anti-union chestnuts like "hackarama," etc. And, let's face it: Union-bashing seems to be here to stay, for a while anyway.Because, it's not like people who work in unions have bills to pay or families to support.

  14. Dan Kennedy

    As I've said before — Howie is not Severin. I don't want Howie to go away. I want a better Howie.

  15. Treg

    So, . . . you guys . . . actually . . . . . . . . *listen*? . . . to Howie Carr???

  16. Doug Shugarts

    I've seen tapes of Carr's relentless TV reporting on former Boston mayor Kevin White. Frankly, I was impressed with his tenacity and balls, and I wish his work today were similarly 'energetic.'

  17. io saturnalia!

    I listen to Howie about a half-hour two or three times a week, and I always try to hear him when he has the guy from TV Guide on, as Howie can actually be charming and funny.His callers, on the other hand …

  18. Peter Porcupine

    Confession – I am a huge fan of Police Blotter Friday(And I've met Col. Hunt more than once…)

  19. Bill Toscano

    Dan: I know you have to read him because of this blog, but I get the feeling you would read him anyway.I know I do, and a lot of other people do.It's like a trainwreck, but you have to watch.If people are reading him — and some buying the paper just for him like I used to get the Post just for Phil Mushnick — he's doing his job.He's also right about the Globe.I wonder if the head of the union will chastise him, too.

  20. mike_b1

    As I think about Totten's background, it more and more says to me he is in way over his head.

  21. Dot Lane

    "Let's face it, the Globe is on the ropes because it's crammed to the rafters with writers who can't write, reporters who can't report, and editors who can't edit,"And yet the Globe publishes a paper everyday which puts the Boston Herald to shame. You'd think the Herald would be so much more successful, given its apparently superior talent in all areas of newspaper production. Howie Carr's writing is like cobwebs: once you blow on it lightly, it all falls away.

  22. meamoeba

    no, dot, i beg to differ. howie's writing is actually very good and very funny. it's his reporting/opining and tired retreading that is wispy. how many columns are based on a caller's innuendo? more often than they should be, i'd say.and, as an aside, a south shore "cement block" company is heralding (pun intended) "howie carr day" at its store on june 20with an appearance by howie. i won't say where because i have no desire to feather their nests. but i find it apropos that it's a "cement block" company. fill in your own joke. i'm trying to be anonymous and civil.

  23. Dan Kennedy

    Howie once won a National Magazine Award, the equivalent of Pulitzer, for his political profiles in Boston Magazine. He is one of the most gifted political reporters Boston (the city) has ever seen.His deterioration since then has been sad, though lucrative to him.

  24. WilsonTisdale

    I suspect Howie once applied for a job at the Globe and was turned down. On the other hand, I agree that Dan Totten is probably in over his head.

  25. Nial Liszt

    One of these thoughts has crossed Boston newspaper reader's minds several hundred times more than the others combined:I wonder what Derrick will write about this in tomorrow's paper.I wonder what Joan will write about this in tomorrow's paper.I wonder what Renee will write about this in tomorrow's paper.I wonder what Howie will write about this in tomorrow's paper.

  26. meamoeba

    nial, i can tell you with 100 percent honesty and accuracy that i have not wondered what howie will write in more than 15 years. more often, i wonder which of his four columns he'll recycle: dems bad, hacks bad, drunk hunters bad, nonwhites bad. if anyone has to wonder, they're new to boston or reading.

  27. meamoeba

    that's reading, as in the intellectual act, not the town.

  28. Dot Lane

    Howie's writing is like a third-rate magician: you can see the wires and palmed cards and the only reason you might be fooled on occasion is because you've blinked. His columns are so mechanical you can practically hear the gears grinding as he strains to churn out essentially the same column over and over.As Dan notes, he's done good work in the past, but now he's just cashing a check.

  29. Rick in Duxbury

    meomoeba: "i'm trying to be anonymous and civil." Mission accomplished. However, you neglected to mention that this is one of the largest retailers of flags in New England, as indicated by the rest of the company description, which you conveniently omitted. We can argue over where patriotism ends and jingoism starts but lots of Howie's listeners have flags on their lawns that came from this retailer. I suspect that the fact that they also sell masonry supplies has little to do with Howie's connection to them. Some folks are apparently more reverential than others on the subject of the American flag.

  30. meamoeba

    sorry, rick, we're likely talking about two different places. the name of the company is "XXXXXXX Cement Block Co." and it sells cement blocks, bricks and other hard-shell items. it is not a flag retailer. been there many, many, many times and drive by it daily. i don't do omission. i'd just not mention it if it was another place.

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