Ireland House Oral History Collection

Daniel Barry

Daniel Barry, 28 October 2011. Photo by Linda Almeida.

Created/Published:

28 October 2011

3 hours, 41 minutes

Preferred Citation:

Ireland House Oral History Collection, Archives of Irish America, New York University

Biographical Note:

Daniel Barry (b. Queens, NY, 1958) is an American journalist, currently writing for The New York Times. He is the eldest of four children to Eugene and Nora Barry. His mother emigrated from Ireland in the early 1950s.

Dan Barry grew up in Deer Park on Long Island with three younger siblings: a younger brother named Brian, and two sisters named Brenda and Elizabeth. Barry attended St. Cyril and Methodius School grammar school, and then went on to St. Anthony's, an all-boys institution, for high school. After graduating from St. Bonaventure's College with a Bachelor's degree in journalism, Barry decided to go to graduate school at New York University, where he completed his Master's, also in journalism.

In 1983, he landed a spot at the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Connecticut. Here, he further developed his writing skills. Soon, however, he outgrew the small newspaper.

After four years, Barry was offered a job at the Providence Journal in Rhode Island. At the Providence Journal, Barry was assigned to cover the town of West Warwick, Rhode Island. While at the PJ, Barry and his investigative team won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles regarding the state's court system.

In 1995, Barry was encouraged to submit a story to the New York Times as part of a job application. He decided on a story about a boxing match. The piece was organized contrarily to how news stories are generally written: he spent the majority of the article on the boxer's background, weaving in action from his match, and left the outcome of the fight until the very end of the article. The NYT found this piece to be engaging and impressive, and Dan Barry was hired.

While at the NYT, Dan Barry resurrected the "About New York" column, which he wrote for three years. In 2005 Barry travelled to New Orleans to cover the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina storm. He spent days observing and writing the story of a corpse he found in the middle of a city street which laid untended for days without ever being collected. When the story was published on the front page of the NYT, Barry was convinced to start a column similar to "About New York," but concerning the entire country, and "This Land" was created.

In February 1999, Barry's mother lost her battle with lung cancer. Only months later, Dan Barry was diagnosed with cancer, suffering a growth on his voice box. Throughout his chemotherapy regimen, he refused to submit to his disease, and continued writing for The New York Times.

In January 2000, Dan Barry's cancer appeared to be in remission. He wrote his memoir, Pull Me Up, which was released in 2004. While promoting his book, Barry was once again struck with cancer, this time in his esophagus. In January 2005, his esophagus was removed, a surgery that apparently saved his life. Dan Barry has been cancer-free since.

In addition to Pull Me Up, Dan Barry has published City Lights: Stories About New York, a collection of his "About New York" columns, (2007) and Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game (2011), which is about the longest game in professional baseball history.

Click on image to enlarge.

  1. Family of Nora Barry in Ireland
  2. Cover of menu card for last night's voyage of the Cunard liner, MV Brittanic that carried Nora Barry to America in 1955.
  3. The menu card from the final night's dinner of the Cunard transatlantic liner, MV Brittanic, signed by Nora Barry's friends on her first passage to the United States. Dated August 18, 1955.
  4. Immigration card of Dan Barry's mother, Nora.
  5. Eugene and Nora Barry, Dan Barry's parents,  on their wedding day.
  6. Eugene and Nora Barry.
  • Excerpt No. 4

    The Preponderance of Irish American Columnists

    Disc 3, 00:50:43–00:54:40

    Listen to Excerpt No. 4

    Transcription of Excerpt No. 4

    RW: There are a lot of Irish American columnists. We've got Jimmy Breslin, Pete and Denis Hamill, and so on and so forth. Do you think it's a coincidence that there are so many prominent city Irish American columnists, or... What do you think the correlation is there?

    DB: Um, Breslin, over the years, has, um, has said that he created the form, okay, that before Breslin here was not this voice, and then Breslin comes along and soon everyone wants to be Breslin. You know, you could argue that Mike McAlary was often times an imitation of Jimmy Breslin and, you know, for some measures, a pale imitation. So, Breslin says, "You know, I did this." And he's said this. "You know, I started this thing and now anyone with an Irish surname can add a column in —into New York." You know, and, uh, I don't, you know, I don't know if that's true. And Breslin's hard, by the way, on the Irish. He thinks that the Irish American had forgotten, uh, his or her hard-scrabble roots, and he calls them, "Look at them with their shopping mall faces." You know, like they've forgotten. What he's also saying is, "Aw, they all became Republican." Um, you know, I don't know what that is. I don't know, you know, I don't know if it's true only to New York. If I think about the columnists in Chicago, I think about Mike Royko. If I think about Los Angeles or Philadelphia, they're other guys. You know, Steve Lopez—not Irish American. You know, in, in Boston, right now it's Kevin Cullen, and accolade of Jimmy Breslin's and a friend of mine. Um, I don't know. I don't know what to say about that. I think that, um, there is a facility with language, uh, I think that there is a blue-collar sensibility to newspaper-writing that appeals, um, to Irish Americans, you know. Um, I think that, you know, uh... Did I ever think that I would be a surgeon who could save someone's life by deftly removing their esophagus so that they continue on with life? I never, ever, uh, considered that thought. It just wasn't part of where I came from and who I am. Did I ever dream of becoming a columnist for a newspaper? I think when I was, like, 10. Do you know what I mean? I don't know what that is. The fact that, uh, New York has a preponderance of Irish columnists, um, I don't know. I don't know. I think because we tell stories, because we're blue-collar, because we tend to be more blue-collar—you know, my parents didn't go to college. We're drawn to, um, we're drawn to, uh, challenging authority. We enjoy—we thrive in, um, mocking the powerful and challenging the authority, and, um, with a facility of language, creating a scene that allows you to be there while we mock and challenge.

  • Interviewers:

    Photo Credit:

    1. Family of Nora Barry in Ireland: her father, Daniel, and mother, Agnes, in the back row. Nora and siblings, Mary, Joe and Chrissie (l-r) in front. Man in glasses on left unidentified.
    2. Cover of menu card for last night's voyage of the Cunard liner, MV Brittanic that carried Nora Barry to America in 1955.
    3. The menu card from the final night's dinner of the Cunard transatlantic liner, MV Brittanic, signed by Nora Barry's friends on her first passage to the United States. Dated August 18, 1955.
    4. Immigration card of Dan Barry's mother, Nora.
    5. Eugene and Nora Barry, Dan Barry's parents, on their wedding day.
    6. Eugene and Nora Barry.