Maurice “Mickey” Carroll died in December after a long career as a reporter and then as a spokesperson with the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Between the Lines / By Peter McDermott
I spent 12 years in the loving care of the Catholic-state education system in Dublin— the first two with the sisters of the Holy Faith and the rest with the Irish Christian Brothers. The only advice I ever recall getting in that time regarding the media was the truism: “You can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.” And so forewarned, some of my peers and I took to reading newspapers as avidly as our teachers, both religious and secular, parents, grandparents and other elders did.
This now brings to mind a story the late Maurice “Mickey” Carroll told me when I interviewed him over pints in Kennedy’s bar on West 57th Street one afternoon back in 2005. Here’s the very short version: a reporter was sent out to do a story about a teenage boy running into a burning building and rescuing a number of people. He couldn’t find the boy, but nonetheless phoned in as part of his report an “interview” with a very chatty young hero. The reporter’s next communication with his office was a call from his nearly hysterical city editor, who screamed: “Did you see the Journal-American?” It turned out that that paper (for which Mickey himself worked at one point and for just about every other paper in New York) ran a banner headline — “Deaf-mute boy saves family from inferno.” The punch-line of Mickey’s story, as I recall, had the deflated reporter crumpled over his drink in a bar, saying: “You get one little thing wrong and they’re all over you!”
Anyway, this was an example of why you don’t believe everything you read in the papers. People do embellish, they exaggerate and they lie. In this case, the fire happened and a hero saved some people, but there was no interview. It wasn’t the end of the world. We live in a free society and another paper had a more accurate account.
The problem is we’ve moved from where that reporter’s sin is the issue to where Mickey Carroll is. We saw an example of this when Marco Rubio spent a good deal of his intellectual energy last week, via a series of tweets, attacking “the media.”
But I’d rather discuss Carroll, who was raised middle-class in New Jersey’s suburbs and died on Dec. 6 last in New York. (He was for the two decades through his death the spokesperson for the Quinnipiac University Poll.) He started his newspaper career with the Rutherford Republican as a 14-year-old in 1945 and ended it when New York Newsday closed down in 1995. In between, Mickey worked for many years with his great friend and mentor Arthur Gelb at the New York Times. He was decent, incorruptible and straight down the middle. Yes, he was establishment media. Mickey was the first person to grab Jack Ruby when he shot Lee Oswald and always maintained Ruby was a wannabe and a schlub and not the mobster the more anti-establishment types painted him. Yes, he was “elite,” with his university degree (from Notre Dame). But since Fox News started up, Mickey and his successors — mostly as incorruptible, as decent and as straight down the middle as he was — have been now redefined as “left wing media” and increasingly since Vladimir’s buddy took office as “enemies of the people.”
On Friday, the day after five employees were murdered, the Capital Gazette said in an editorial they would never forget the victims and added: “We won’t forget being called an enemy of the people. No, we won’t forget that.”
The Capital Gazette said: “Here’s what else we won’t forget: Death threats and emails from people we don’t know celebrating our loss, or the people who called for one of our reporters to get fired because she got angry and cursed on national television after witnessing her friends getting shot.”
And what was Senator Rubio’s response to four journalists and a young colleague lying dead in pools of blood? He tweeted: “Sign of our times… the F word is now routinely used in news stories, tweets etc It’s not even F*** anymore. Who made that decision???”
Marco really is the anti-Mickey, isn’t he? He’s whatever the opposites are of decent, incorruptible and straight down the middle.