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A major blow for Rutgers fans

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I'm right now catching up with all the days' events, and I'm absolutely floored to learn that the word going around is that the Bergen Record has sacked RU beatwriter Aditi Kinkhabwala. As part of their new arrangement with the Newark Star-Ledger, they will be running Ledger RU content in their papers going forward. Well, not surprised in the sense that it's no secret that her paper and her industry have been mightily struggling; but stunned and saddened to see the carnage finally hit so close to home.

Even with newspapers across the country struggling to stay afloat, and is profoundly shortsighted for local newspapers to dismiss quality talent like Aditi, or Dan Graziano (edit: to clarify, he accepted a voluntary buyout during the last wave of them, I was in no way implying that he was specifically laid off. Those are emblematic of the problem though) from the Newark Star-Ledger several months back. This is becoming a vicious cycle, because by firing these writers, all the papers accomplish is to further drive away readers, further damaging their long-term futures. It's no wonder that Jim Carty left the (now-defunct) Ann Arbor News for law school.

Why do people read the Bergen Record and visit NorthJersey.com? One reason is to view their local take on Bergen Country issues, including their excellent reporting on Xanadu and EnCap. There's that, and I also visit their website for the high quality sports desk. There are a lot of papers that cover New York baseball and football, but the big three largely have a monopoly on local New Jersey sports. It's unfathomable that they would willingly squander one of their biggest distinct advantages. I keep visiting for Aditi, and Tara Sullivan, Art Stapleton, and Tom Gulitti. Adam Zagoria left their partner the Herald News last year, anticipating the coming onslaught (Adrian Wojnarowski bolted for Yahoo several years back). Now Aditi has followed him out the door.

During the Ledger dustup last year, I cautioned RU fans that were (rightly) angry at the paper to not take it out on Tom Luicci, or any other employee who didn't have a part in slinging mud. Because while readers may be wholly indifferent to the fates of organizations like Advance and Gannett, there are real people behind those local papers sitting in their cubicles (actually, didn't the Record eliminate their newsroom last year?). What's so great about a writer losing his or her health insurance?

With this story just breaking, I don't know the exact details of what happened, or of Aditi's future plans. For one thing, and I'll just throw this out there as pure wishful thinking, I think she would be an absolutely perfect fit following Zagoria to SNY. She's already appeared on the network numerous times, they're looking to beef up their Big East coverage (and may have an opening on Saturdays if Ray Lucas becomes the RU radio color guy), and she has also moonlighted for the other sports beats on occasion. Needless to say, she would also be a great pickup for organizations like Sports Illustrated or ESPN. There are new media sites doing well out there too. If there is a silver lining in this, it would be in getting her voice out there to a larger audience.

I don't know if I will ever pay nearly as much attention to the Record's sports section again. If only every fanbase could be so lucky as to have the likes of Tom Luicci and Keith Sargeant covering their team; but going forward the quality and breadth of Rutgers athletics coverage will be significantly diminished.

As long as the address is still working, Rutgers fans really should show their appreciation by sending words of gratitude to kinkhabwala@northjersey.com. I know that I will fire off a message momentarily.