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Perspective: Plain Dealer changes could have been worse

7:44 PM, Apr 4, 2013   |    comments
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The Plain Dealer is dealing out dramatic changes to its readers and staff.

The paper will still publish daily.

Plain Dealer Publisher Terry Egger says the bold moves and big changes are to stay ahead of a world that's stampeding to electronic devices for its primary information sources.

But those who depend on getting the paper on their doorstep will only get home delivery three days a week. Home delivery accounts for about 80 percent of the paper's circulation.

The paper will still be sold daily at stores and vending machines and an e-mail version will be available to home subscribers.

Cost of the new home delivery package is yet to be set.

Plain Dealer call center operators will likely be swamped with subscriber calls.

Home delivery will be on Sunday and two "yet-to-be-named" days.

But the broad outlines of the new business plan announced Thursday aren't as bad as many feared.

For one thing, Cleveland will not get the unwanted title and dubious distinctrion of "America's Biggest City with No Daily Paper."

The local Plain Dealer brain trust apparently was able to convince the paper's absentee owners --  the Newhouse family -- that a daily paper is still a viable option here.

A handful of other Newhouse-owned papers, including the New Orleans Times Picayune, are already publishing just two or there days a week.

A new company is being formed to oversee the digital future and hybrid media plan involving the Plain Dealer, and Sun Newspapers.

The still-grim news is that a third of the Plain Dealer's reporters, photographers and newsroom staff -- the news finders and writers -- still face layoffs soon.

That's got to take some teeth out of the newspaper's watchdog role.

But a possible May 1 ax-falling date has now been shifted to sometime this summer, giving them a few more weeks to work or seek other employment.

The new media organization will devote more of its resources to its 24-7 website and less to the paper.

What about those not in the digital loop, those too old, poor or media-disconnected to be part of the new digital world?

Egger told me a partnership is being formed between the PD/website, city, county, Cleveland library system and digital group One Community to help them through the transition and get better connected.

Like many of Thursday's announced plans, there are details and exact dates to follow.

So finally there are some answers about what's happening at the compass of Cleveland's media world.

Change is coming and coming fast. It will be an opportunity for other media to step up and step in.

And a challenge for us all to stay educated and informed.


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