Perspective: Tom Beres 'turning the page' on the Plain Dealer

11:55 PM, Feb 13, 2013   |    comments
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Cleveland is going to be making lots of headlines in 2013.

The new Convention Center and Medical Mart will bring visitors and activity downtown. The Flats East Bank Project will finally plant significant development on Cleveland's underused waterfront.

The first half of the new Innerbelt Bridge project will replace an aging, dangerous bridge at the city's front door.

Cleveland may also be making headlines in 2013 because it's losing headlines.

Rampant speculation continues that the Cleveland Plain Dealer will stop daily publication and come out only three days a week with a snazzier, ramped-up website.

Part 1: What's life like with no daily paper?

Part 2: What's life like with no daily paper

That means headlines for some of those stories may not be in the paper until days after they happen and that development may get Cleveland unwanted attention and headlines as it becomes "America's largest city with no daily newspaper."

The paper, its owners and local publisher and its editor claim that specific plans and timelines are still being worked out. Other Advance Inc. papers have adopted what to outsiders seem like "one-size fits all" changeovers.

We do know 58 newsroom staffers will be laid off or reassigned to in May. Experienced reporters are leaving for jobs with other newspapers, as speechwriters, or in public relations.

Is anything significant  being done by Cleveland's leadership community to try to preserve the Plain Dealer's everyday status? In a word  -- No.

New Orleans' mayor and bishop at least spoke out against changing the Times-Picayune there to a three-day-a-week paper. Here in Cleveland, the response has been almost deafening silence and any supportive comments have come in response to media questions.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said the city deserves to keep a daily paper. Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich said the paper's owners should make an effort to try to find someone to buy the Plain Dealer who would maintain daily publishing.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said it was "awkward" to be asked to intervene in a business situation involving an entity that covers City Hall. Business and civic leaders talk among themselves. But no civic campaign's being publicly discussed.

"Saving the Plain Dealer" apparently is not worthy of the same campaign that "Save the Browns" or "Save DFAS Jobs" crusades became, despite the fact jobs are also at stake, and even mustering a "Fly the United Hub" effort seems out of the question.

Cleveland City Council has not passed a requested resolution to keep a daily paper. Some officeholders are smarting from negative coverage they've received in the paper and don't seem to grasp the larger question of what is at stake.

The Plain Dealer is owned by the Newhouse family and is privately held. Since the owners live out of state, there's no chance to appeal to hometown loyalty and there are no other big stockholders to plead with.

The Newspaper Guild, a union for newsroom staffers, has been waging a media and educational campaign about the threat to the quantity and quality of journalism a downsized paper would produce.

But a city and a region accustomed to putting up a good fight for worthy causes is accepting an expected big loss and big change as unavoidable digital "progress" with little more than a collective shrug and yawn.


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