Sierer was man of integrity

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 28, 2008

In the field of journalism there are some legendary names such as Edward R. Murrow, Grantland Rice, and Walter Cronkite. But unlike famous athletes or heroes, these people aren’t so inspirational that they make a young boy say, “When I grow up, I’m going to write for Sports Illustrated.”

Most journalists are people who enjoy the work and like the challenge. With the exception of the big name TV and radio journalists who are really more a celebrity that’s trying to grab higher ratings, journalists tend to make enemies instead of money.

When I began writing sports out of high school nearly 35 years ago, I did it because I liked it. I didn’t enjoy writing about someone losing, but I did enjoy writing the story. I didn’t suddenly one day think, “Man if I could just be the next Jim Murray.”

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But there have been two people in the newspaper business that have left an impression on me. One was Don Mayne who could handle any situation. The other was Paul Sierer.

I thought about Paul the past couple of days after learning he had died Saturday. He lived his life in Ironton but he worked at the Ashland Daily Independent.

About 20 years ago I was in his office and he talked about his philosophies in running the newsroom. He told me how he could get bonus money if he came in so far under budget each month, but he preferred to do the job in a first-class manner rather than line his pockets with a few extra bucks.

His first loyalty was always to his readers.

During that conversation I realized this was a man of character, honesty, integrity, compassion, and dedication. You might not agree with him, but he believed it was everyone’s right to an opinion.

He was on the news side, but he loved his sports. He had the Sierer Ratings System that rated high school football teams. He was pretty damn accurate, too. I’m sure he made some people upset, but that’s where we go back to making enemies instead of money. He was just being honest.

Paul knew people would almost always blame the messenger instead of the message. He could laugh about a tongue-lashing or poison pen letter. He knew it came with the territory.

In his retirement years he would write letters to the editor at The Ironton Tribune dissecting city policies. I’m sure city officials cringed every time they saw a letter signed by Paul Sierer or the late Dick McCarthy. They were our government watchdogs.

I always thought Paul Sierer was a first-class individual. Heck, he even got to be the godfather of the best high school football coach in Ohio history, Bob Lutz.

But then, would you expect anything but the best from Paul? I never did.

-- Sinatra --

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.