Vox Populi: The O'Shaughnessy Files

By William O’Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

THE HELL-RAISER

We broadcast this encomium upon the occasion of the fiery
publisher Ralph Martinelli’s passing on September 13,
2004.

Ralph Martinelli was a muckraking hell-raiser, a scold, a crusading publisher, and a royal pain in the ass. He cut a vivid figure in an age of dullness and cookie-cutter journalism.

With his departure last week for what his late friend Governor Malcolm Wilson described as “another, and, we are sure, a better world,” Westchester lost an independent voice, however harsh, however strident, however provocative.

At times, Martinelli could be vitriolic, unkind, and downright ornery. And he frequently stepped over the line of fairness and civility. Yet our colleagues in the press have covered Mr. Martinelli’s passing with an extraordinary interest in his stewardship, despite the carping of his enemies and detractors.

Phil Reisman, the star columnist of the Journal News, weighed in with his rapier-sharp surgical wit to find the true value in Martinelli’s life: “He was not exactly given to subtlety,” said the Gannett scribe mildly.

And the late Jack Gould, who wrote about WVOX for the New York Times, probably confirmed Reisman’s analysis when he wrote, “Every independent voice is a national asset.” Martinelli was an independent voice. And I don’t care what the pipsqueak politicos in Eastchester or Yonkers say: Westchester is poorer with his demise.

His detractors claim Mr. Martinelli used his bully pulpit to secure the lucrative “official newspaper” designation from the towns and municipalities served by his weekly journals. However, I have always felt he was motivated by more than financial considerations. He firmly believed the local pols he had supported during a lifetime of advocacy should “do the right thing” by his papers. It is known to this day in the neighborhoods as Respect.

So, as we write “30” to his colorful, if tortured, life, I think that’s what he was really all about: respect. And friendship. And loyalty.

-124-

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