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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

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One Of My Contributors Wore a Hat to the Office Last Week… Am I Losing Control of My Staff?

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I almost audibly gasped. 

Messenger HQ is typically a beast on a Wednesday “crunch night.” Obviously, election build-up and election reflection issues are special occasions where it becomes one even more so. Therefore, the creative trio of myself, News Editor Brian R. Monahan and Art Manager Sergio A. Fabbri were more than happy to welcome extra assistance while slating with our hands and minds on metaphorical fire. 

Joining us on November 9 was contributing writer Matt Meduri, who first came to our booth at the Ronkonkoma Street Fair in late August and we’ve been counting our blessings ever since. His original 5-article submission packet required the least edits of any Messenger newcomer I’ve “proofed” during my tenure here. His outlined experience with accurately calling elections also rendered him an instant asset for us throughout what was projected to be, and what turned out to be an intense election cycle. 

Though his gubernatorial prediction of a Zeldin victory turned out less than accurate, Matt’s not a darling we’re looking to kill — over this. His full-picture breakdown of races across New York State was, as always, spot-on, and I made him a promise months back I vow to keep: that we’d get his strong writing skill sets involved in more sections of the paper beyond the political post-Election. 

As you read above, this is a prophecy that has come true (unlike his foremost one), as he is quite passionate about the topic of hat-wear and the virtue of maintaining physical collections enough to believe people would find it… funny? 

Having sung all the praises I and others can about Matt, I can’t help but fixate on the audacity he showed wearing a hat to the office on his first official crunch day. Now, he did whip out quite a bit of material for us on standby when we had to fill pages in the eleventh hour. While I was wearing many figurative hats that night as per usual, I struggled to conceal legitimate stun every time Matt appeared before me in a literal hat that read “Arizona.” 

“It was something Reis and I spoke about ad nauseam over the next couple of days with the editorial board,” said Monahan. “We obviously can’t relieve Matt of his duties because he’s a very strong writer and that would make zero sense, but he has been put on notice.” 

In my defense: it’s not that he wore a hat, it’s more how he wore it. Or, rather, how he pretended like he wasn’t. Matt did not acknowledge he was wearing that hat, nor did he indicate ahead of time he’d be wearing it before he arrived. It made me feel more undermined than anything that’s ever happened to me in my life ever and that’s no hyperbole. 

As a former student athlete who is currently growing his hair long (and who is certainly not jealous of Matt’s apparent indifference to the thoughts of others, that’s not what this is about at all, c’mon now), I spent my grade school years wishing I could wear a hat in class or in the halls. However, I was spurned every time I threatened to, and therefore adhered to a rule I disagreed with— something I brought with me to the workforce all these years later. 

I never imagined I could wear a hat in the four-days laid-back, one-day all hands-on-deck Messenger office, so I never did. So to see Matt mingling with management beyond me, caring nil about what I’ve colloquially deemed “Hatgate” in the aftermath… it definitely said more about him than it says about me. I feel pretty justified in my grievance, too, but I can’t speak for Matt— only he can. 

“Look, to each his own but I honestly think Reis may be going through something and that this is about more than a hat,” Meduri spoke in a voicemail left on The Messenger’s direct line in response to our press for comment. We wanted to be clear that, though this was going to be a hit piece, Matt was free to go to bat for himself against whatever fastballs and breaking balls we felt like throwing him. 

He added, “I was coming from a long day of work at my other job and figured after Zeldin’s loss, wearing the hat would be a room-booster and lightener, if it were to be anything at all. But nope, no one brought it up at all, good or bad. Nobody roasted me for the hat until now, actually. I’ll make sure not to wear one in the future but, if Reis ever wears the one that Barstool gifted him that he keeps on display in his office, I’m definitely going to take him to task on it.” 

“I believe in hierarchy, but I believe in man’s right to wear and collect hats more— and that includes his [Reis’ right],” Meduri declared. “He seems to have forgotten that when he crafted the thesis for this ‘humor’ column, though I struggle to find the humor in critiquing me for all our readers to see. What am I missing?” 

Exactly, Matt. Exactly. This is no laughing matter.

Michael J. Reistetter
Michael J. Reistetter
Editor-in-Chief for The Messenger Papers.