Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Death of a Local Newspaper Legend

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Death of a Local Newspaper Legend

Article excerpt

At the risk of sounding immodest, I've had a pretty good career: Top-level management at two newspapers, then on to national media, awards, accolades, the whole bit. I couldn't have done any of it without Ray Saul.

Ramon S. "Ray" Saul died this week at the age of 82, following an awe-inspiring journalism run that spanned nearly 60 years, all at his beloved Standard-Speaker in Hazleton, Pa. He was the paper's ubiquitous sports editor for 26 years before taking over the managing editor's position, which he held for 16 years.

To call Saul a legend doesn't come close to grasping his impact on his field. He was a towering giant both figuratively and physically, the real thing in an age where posers proliferate, an old-school newsman who understood that making a personal connection with readers took far more importance than pretty rhetorical flourishes.

His columns on sports and politics were something out of a Damon Runyon yarn, written in segment form, the letter "o" with dashes separating the various points. For his sports columns, which he wrote every day, he would capitalize the names of the local and national sports figures he mentioned, believing that what people wanted most was to read the names of themselves, their friends and their kids.

That many of you reading this have never heard of Ray matters little - his constituency resided in the rugged mountains and gritty coal mines of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and they were the ones he cared about the most.

In an era of one-named stars - Angelina, Brad, Bruce, Madonna - he was simply "Ray." Mention the name to anyone in those parts and they'll immediately know to whom you are referring.

For me, Saul began as simply a boss. Though I violated the cardinal tenet for employment in Ray's newsroom by not being a Penn State graduate, he was the man who gave me my first job in the business, as a general assignment reporter back in August 1987.

But as my career progressed so did my relationship with Ray.

He evolved beyond boss and into mentor, someone to whom I could seek counsel and who would regale me with tales of the old days, then somehow make it all relevant to whatever dilemma I happened to be facing on that particular day. …

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