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VETERAN'S SIGN-OFF MARKS A SAD DAY FOR RADIO NEWS

Ray Marks spent most of his reporting career at WGR radio and Friday gave a eulogy for his own job and the death of a 75-year news tradition at the station.

Marks, 55, is the current news director at WGR-AM 550, which will drop news and switch Monday to an all-sports format. Marks has been news director three times at the historic station during his 34 years in broadcasting.

"I never imagined that with WGR's 75 years on the air, it would be on my watch that this day would come," Marks said in a voice choked with emotion. "I love this station, these people and this job."

Marks' words were part of an emotional day at WGR, the station's final regular weekday as a news/talk/information format. News programming will move to WBEN-AM 930, making it the only commercial news station in town. Both stations were recently bought by Entercom Communications Corp. of Philadelphia.

The WGR news staff has combined with WBEN and three members were retained, Melanie Pritchard, Jim Ranney and Barbara Burns.

Marks won't be on the new team. The dedicated and principled journalist resigned after turning down a hefty pay cut and time shift, sources said. He would have been moved from morning news at WGR to a 3-to-11 p.m. anchor slot at WBEN. Marks gave "family and personal" reasons for resigning.

Marks' departure is not only a loss for WGR, but broadcast journalism in this market. Few broadcasters here could match his passion, dedication and commitment to news. Marks would get up each weekday at 1:30 a.m. to be at station and prepare for the 5 a.m. morning show.

More importantly, Marks took a young and underpaid staff at WGR, and turned it into an aggressive news force. For the past two years under Marks' guidance, WGR regularly beat WBEN to stories and consistently showed more energy and passion.

"Don't write about me, write about the news staff," Marks said during an telephone interview. He affectionately called that staff "my kids" because Marks acted as a teacher and mentor to the young reporters.

"Ray is such a dedicated person," WGR's Matt Smith said on the air. "Ray's really made a difference in my life." Newsman Tom Puckett echoed those words: "Ray set a standard, professionally and personally."

Marks' career, like the tradition of news, may be over at WGR. But somewhere in this market, there should be a place for Marks' high standards and commitment to journalism.

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