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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The nasty side of our business

It's no secret that the newspaper industry is struggling everywhere, top to bottom, all across the board.

Every day, there's another story of layoffs at some paper. Long-time dedicated veterans being shown the door unceremoniously. Sure, it's happening in every working class field, but for some reason, when I hear news of good newspaper people losing their jobs, it really hits home.

It hit home last February when three of my colleagues at the Morristown Daily Record, namely Frank DiLeo, Sandy Seegers and Mark Kitchin, were handed their walking papers. All three were great sports journalists, all credits to their craft.

Now, I just heard news that Dorf Feature Services, which provides coverage for the Newark Star-Ledger, laid off three local sportswriting legends this week, namely Ed Barmakian, Mike Moretti and John Ruyzam.

I had the fortune to work with all three great guys and great sportswriters for 14 years. I consider all three to be friends.

Combined, the three titans have almost 90 years of sportswriting experience with the Ledger. That's right. Almost a full century combined of serving the readers of New Jersey.

Barmakian, the bearded wonder, was in my opinion the best baseball sportswriter in the New York metropolitan area during the Yankees' playoff runs in 1995 and 1996. He got every story, wrote every word to precise distinction and blew the opposition away.

Not only was Eddie a fine baseball writer, but he was the heartbeat of New Jersey collegiate athletics on all levels since he began when he was just a toddler. Every single New Jersey college coach, administrator and SID bowed to Barmakian, because he covered all the sports, not just the Division I level. Eddie covered the Division IIIs with accuracy and grace. He gave the NAIA and JUCOs a fair shake. He wrote great features on college athletes like no one did before or ever will, because the Ledger has practically eliminated all coverage of college sports, except for Rutgers and Seton Hall basketball.

Now, his 35-year career is over with one stroke.

Moretti, perhaps the most lovable sportswriter in the state, covered everything during his career, from the pro sports when he worked for the Passaic Herald-News to every single sport imaginable at Dorf, like volleyball, bowling, track and field, girls' lacrosse, you name it. He was the utility man of the sportswriting set, the jack-of-all-trades. His versatility was second to none.

Now, his three-decade career has been halted with a few words.

Ruyzam was Mr. Passaic County. There wasn't a thing about the county that he didn't know, from seeing Ironhead Heyward in his heyday to watching Tim Thomas sign his national letter of intent in his pajamas. Thomas' pajamas, not Johnny Roo's.

Johnny Roo might have been old school, not wanting to get involved with the new-fangled technology of today, but he certainly did his job and did it well.

All three men were extremely dedicated to their profession, to their employer and to the athletes they covered. They were absolute credits to the profession and I was proud to get the chance to know them as friends and work with them as colleagues.

It's a sad day for New Jersey sports, especially high school athletics, when we lose three extremely talented and dedicated guys on the same day. Sure, they're not deceased. They all will bounce back and land on their feet.

But what does this say about loyalty to one's job? To one's employer?

Does it all end just like that for sportswriters? Could I be next? Never know. Nothing is certain in life, as they say, except death and taxes.

One thing is for sure: Both Dorf Feature Services and the Star-Ledger are far worse off today because these three sportswriting legends are gone with the swoop of a pen.

Shame on the powers-that-be that made the decision to get rid of them. Incredibly, the highest paid editors always survive in matters like this. The poor schlub hacks are the ones who have to always pay the price.

Here's to the Armenian, the ''unbeeeeeleeeevable'' one and Paterson's Johnny Roo. They're good guys and deserved a better fate.

Hopefully, they'll be better off with their escape from Mountainside _ like yours truly was when he walked out the door for good four years ago.


I also decided to part ways today with the Newark Bears. I gave it a little over a month and decided that it was not worth the headaches I had every single night.

I really want baseball to succeed in Newark. I like the coaching staff of Tim Raines, Jim Leyritz and Ron Karkovice a lot and GM Mike Torrez was a joy to be around.

But the powers-that-be there can't see the forest through the trees and don't understand that they're running a baseball team first and foremost, not a circus. I'll survive, like I always do.

Work on the ''Faa Stories" book will commence tomorrow morning. I'll have a lot more fun compiling that than worrying about box scores and game roundups.

Look for the "Faa Stories" book tour later this summer.

There's not a Met fan alive who could have predicted the team being over .500 as July approaches. Have to give Terry Collins credit. He's been the main reason why this team is competitive.

Now, can we please sign Reyes? PLEASE????

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