(not exactly the second coming of Katherine Graham)

Since Cablevision purchased Newsday and put the venerable Long Island daily’s web content behind a pay wall for anyone besides subscribers to the cable TV provider, the writing of talented folks like Neil Best, Bob Glauber, David Lennon and Alan Hahn have become a mere rumor to this longtime fan. As such, if anything has changed about the quality of their work, I’d be unaware were it not for this disturbing item from the New York Observer’s John Koblin.

In late December, Wallace Matthews, a veteran sports columnist, was told twice that the tone of the sports page would have to change, and he™d have to make an adjustment. A few days after the new year, Mr. Matthews handed in a column about how much better the Jets were for having Rex Ryan as their coach, especially when compared to his predecessors. In his first draft, Mr. Wallace called former Jets coaches Bill Parcells œsurly and Eric Mangini œsomething like ˜he™s about as communicative as a mummy,™ he said.

That™s not exactly breaking from conventional wisdom”both coaches have been described in worse terms by local sports pundits. Nor is it really breaking from how tabloids cover local sports teams.

Mr. Matthews™ lines were edited out and rephrased. œI said, ˜Why?™ said Mr. Matthews, recalling the conversation he had with his editor at the time. œ[Sports editor] Hank Winnicki said that Debby doesn™t want name-calling.™ I said, ˜It™s not name-calling.™

In February, he was assigned to write a column on Groundhog Day about the Mets. He said he wrote a œsarcastic column about how the Mets seem to suffer from the same problem year after year. He said there was no name-calling. œHank called me and said, ˜You know this can™t get into the paper, said Mr. Matthews. œI said, ˜If it™s not getting in the paper, then I™m done writing columns. I know I still know how to write a column; I just don™t know how to do it for you.”

Mr. Matthews said he was told he had œthe wrong tone.

œThey don™t want sarcasm in the paper, he said. œWhat they want is straightforward analysis of why they™re having problems. You can™t have fun with it. You have to say the Mets need help at first base because Daniel Murphy is hitting .220.

Though I doubt many Mets fans will consider the departure of Matthews — who has since resurfaced at ESPN NY — a tragedy, he’s on the money when he reminds Koblin, “these are the people who fired Marv Albert for being too critical of the Knicks” (“they™re running the paper into the ground the way they did with the Garden and the Wiz. They™ve turned it into shit.)  That Wally’s been a serial Mets basher isn’t the point.  Neither he or his former Newsday colleagues can do their jobs properly under such ridiculous conditions, though as long as Cablevision continues to gouge the public, it’s doubtful the Straight Shot’s despicable frontman will suffer the consequences of his actions.