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A Sports Reporter's Notebook


It's always nice to garner the respect of your peers...

Sunday, March 5, 2000


Jim Moad


He was hard to miss, and

even harder to forget



This is a tribute to a sometimes grouchy, always free of pretense, now and then irascible, without exception genuine, candid, authentic, straightforward, earnest loudmouthed curmudgeon.


Allow me to tell you about Jerry Gutlon.


 He's one of those unforgettable characters we read about in Reader's Digest. And if you pay any attention at all to “bylines,” you would have seen his name often on the front pages of The Daily Commercial.


Since his departure (defection to another newspaper) the newsroom is much, much quieter. We no longer hear his trumpeting voice, like that of a bull elephant on a rampage. Time is beginning to erase what had been a chronic urge to shoot him and mount his shaved head on the wall.


We in the newsroom tolerated his rough, turbulent, noisy, unruly, lively, loud exuberance for a variety of reasons. Foremost is the inescapable conclusion that he is an "ace' investigative reporter. Sounds corny in these cynical times, but Jerry is an intrepid journalists. No mild mannered Clark Kent is he. At an earlier time, he would have been seen out on the front lines with the cops wearing a fedora with a press card tucked in the band.


He would have found a way into 'Killer' McGuirk’s hideout for a scoop. He would have been standing nearby taking notes as McGuirk called out, 'You’ll never take me alive, coppers!’


That's the kind of reporter he is.


It was he who exposed the apparent mismanagement on the part of the state agency charged with the welfare of children, whose plain incompetence resulted in the needless deaths of some. Once he had penetrated that bureaucratic wall with his unique brand of meticulous scrutiny, the floodgate of citizens' outrage opened. The phones haven't stopped ringing in the newsroom.


Jerry is burning the candle at each end – with a blowtorch! In his mid-40s, he's already had one heart attack. But he refuses to slow down. His concern for the welfare of children has prompted him to start writing a book about kids who are desperately in need of protection.


Paradoxically, his juggernaut approach to reporting hasn't affected his home life. Working hodgepodge hours (which, by the way, most reporters do) he has managed to maintain at least a semblance of a normal family life. It was not unusual for him to bring his young son, Joshua, and daughter, Alicia, to work with him. It was an endearing sight to see how much they adore their father. Maybe it's been the family's strong, uncompromising Christian faith that has guided them over the rough spots, of which there have been many. (For some reason, Jerry has never owned a car that runs for very long.)


In a democracy, a free and independent press is counted upon to provide the information and opinions that fuel public debate, expose corruption, illuminate major social issues, and enable an informed citizenry to make participatory decisions. This unwritten covenant, which is no less binding, is a contract that Jerry ascribes to as reverently as his Bible. That's the kind of reporter he is.


His desk has been cleared of its clutter. The picture of his smiling wife, Kristie, which he had prominently displayed, has been removed, to be retaped up at his new desk. Gone is his 'Dilbert" desk calendar, which he delighted reading every day. With giggles, he'd get up from his chair and show that day's cartoon to his colleagues, breaking their concentration while they were working on their stories. A lot of trains of thought were lost that way. Jerry never seemed to notice. Eventually he’d drift back to his chair, put on his headphones and begin to compose his own stories while listening to Gospel music.


All that remains in the coffee cup he once borrowed from the managing editor. At the bottom is two inches of goop.


Jerry was a respected member of the news team. His news stories impacted the community in a significant way, providing the basis for statewide investigations. He has printer’s ink in his veins, a fire in his belly and a hear of gold, not to mention a voice loud enough to be heard from here to Orlando.


Jim Moad is an editorial associate and staff writer for The Daily Commercial. His column appears each Sunday.