Every young journalist has had the experience of getting a spokesman on the phone, and hearing how the person is a former reporter, a “recovering journalist.” The young newshound then wonders what on earth—other than the relatively low pay, lousy hours, nasty editors, depressing stories and disdain from most of the public that many reporters endure—would make someone cross from the side of good and virtue (snicker) to the dark forces of PR.
Stuart Marques—the veteran Herald News, Newark Star-Ledger and Daily News reporter; New York Post editor; and New York Sun editor and columnist—never thought he’d make the leap. But as he announced in his final Sun column this week, he soon will, moving to the receiving end of reporters’ calls for the United Federation of Teachers.
He has his reasons. He thinks the UFT is right in its wrestling match with City Hall, and says he has a “vested interest” in that fight because his son is in public schools. Plus, Marques tells the Voice, “I’ve always been a union guy.” His father worked on the railroad. His mother was a teacher who once refused to cross a picket line. Marques and his wife both lost their paychecks when the Daily News went on strike in 1990, which is how Marques went from reporter to editor.
He found work in TV, at A Current Affair, and when a colleague there went to the Post, he took Marques with him. He never wanted to become an editor, but running the metro desk at the Post ended up being his dream job. “You’re the center of the universe and the phone rings all day and it’s always for you and you turn around and there’s this line of people and they all want to talk to you,” he recalls. “And if you like that, then it’s a great job. If don’t like it, it chews you up and spits you out. And I loved it.” Of Rupert Murdoch, Marques notes that he “never found him to be as heavy handed as other people said he was.”
Marques was let go from the Post in 2001 and headed to the Sun, where he served as news editor until last September, then got a column. Marques says writing a column had long been his goal in journalism, “and I got to do a little of that. Unfortunately it was in a paper nobody reads and it was only for five months, but I got to do it.”
Ah, the Sun—New York’s newest, often most interesting, and frequently bizarre daily. What was life like there?
“I think the paper’s politics is a little more kind of upfront and a little more evident,” Marques says of the Sun. “That’s what the paper’s about.” Sure, the Post has a strong editorial slant, too, but it also has the funnies and a big sports section. Not so the Sun. “The editorial opinion and the editorial content of the Sun—I mean that’s its reason for being.”
Marques says it will be hard to not be a journalist any more, flipping through the paper to see a story that would “make a good column,” yet having no column to write. But “it’s also time to change.” And change is good, even for the news industry that Marques is now leaving. “Everybody sort of longs for the old days,” he says, “but you know they’re never as good as you remember them.”