As the son of journalists, Paul Barrett assumed journalism was “what people did when they got older.”
Question: How did your background shape you?
Barrett: I grew up primarily in suburban New Jersey not far from New York City where my parents worked. And I think I’m very much a product of the, you know, middle class, upper middle class, suburban environment that I grew up in – an environment in which achievement in school and achievement in the professional world beyond school were, you know, very, very high values. And I think that, you know, shaped me tremendously.
Question: As a child, what did you want to do professionally
Barrett: Well I usually say I got into journalism because it was the family business. My parents met when they were the successive editors of the undergraduate newspaper at NYU where they were both commuter students. My father went on to spend his entire career in journalism, primarily at the late great New York Herald Tribune, and then for 35 years at Time magazine. So I grew up carrying a little reporter’s pad and pencil in my pocket just imitating my father. And as a child a big adventure for me was to come into the city from New Jersey to visit him at the Time and Life building and send messages through the old pneumatic tubes, and play ping pong in the hallway with the other journalists – people who I thought were these exotic, kooky, off the wall people. And I thought it was just the coolest thing in the world that my father worked with these people. So as a kid I just assumed I would become a journalist because that’s what people did when they got older.