Bring back Barnicle.
That's what The Boston Globe should do: It should rehire Mike Barnicle.
It should get off its high moral horse, forgive and forget, and bring back the controversial columnist. It would put some life back into the troubled newspaper.
The fact of the matter is, the paper hasn't had a popular, highly readable, entertaining general-assignment columnist since Barnicle was drummed out of the Globe City Room on plagiarism charges. While many Globies have tried to be the new Barnicle, nobody has succeeded.
And no matter what you think about Barnicle's "crimes," it all happened 16 years ago, which means there is hardly a reporter, columnist or editor working at the paper now who was working there back when the then star columnist took his tumble.
Barnicle could probably walk into the Globe City Room today, and the reporters would think he was John Henry, the new owner, who also is a principal owner of the Boston Red Sox. They may not know who Barnicle was, but there are many newspaper readers who do.
As a matter of fact, Barnicle's unhappy departure from the Globe happened two newspaper owners ago, back after the Taylor family, in what has to be the sale of the century, sold the family-owned paper to The New York Times in 1993 for a whopping $1.1 billion. That sale took place at the start of the worst slump in newspaper history, a slump that has continued to this day.
The Times, facing revenue losses on all fronts, last year sold the paper to billionaire John Henry for the bargain-basement price of $70 million. Henry has promised to breathe new life into the paper.
"I wanted to be part of finding a solution for the Globe and newspapers in general," Henry told Boston Magazine in its current issue.
"I feel my mortality," the 64-year-old novice newspaperman said. "I don't want to waste any time I have left, and I felt this was a cause worth fighting for."
Before Henry is free of his mortal coil, however, he plans to sell the expansive Boston Globe building on Morrissey Boulevard and move the paper's operation to smaller and more efficient offices in downtown Boston. That sale should bring in at least half of what Henry paid for the newspaper.
He has also installed his wife, Linda Pizzuti, in an office in the executive wing of the paper, where she runs the Globe Foundation, a community-outreach program, as well as taken an interest in circulation, real-estate, social-media and other business issues.
Curiously enough, Henry's first big hire was not Barnicle, whom he knows personally, but John Allen, a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, who covers the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church. Barnicle provided Henry with Allen's email address. Allen, who has already run an extensive interview with Cardinal O'Malley, will be writing a regular Sunday column on the church.
Barnicle, as the magazine pointed out, is a lifelong Red Sox fan. He has season tickets, and he sits directly behind Henry, who has seats in the front row, just above the Red Sox dugout. "And over the years the two have struck up a friendship," the magazine said.
Barnicle told the magazine that Henry talked to him about how religion was covered by the paper, which, of course, broke the story about sex abuse among priests that blew up the church several years ago.
"He (Henry) was very interested in how the element of faith plays a role in all of our lives. It was pretty interesting to listen to, but I was trying to watch the (expletive deleted) ball game," Barnicle said, in a well-calculated quote that could have come from one of his old columns.
That Henry should consult Barnicle, rather than Globe editors, about hiring a religion reporter is interesting in and of itself. What is more interesting is whether Barnicle is coming back to the paper.
He has been gone a long time. He works for MSNBC, and his wife is a highly paid executive at Bank of America, so he doesn't need the job.
What he does need is a second chance. He screwed up big-time all those years ago when he went rogue, and he has paid the price for that, not in dollars so much, but in being forced out of a profession he loved and that he was pretty good at.
I'd bring him back.
Peter Lucas' political column appears Tuesday and Friday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.