Tuesday, December 04, 2007

PD Defender in Chief

Reader Representative versus the Current Editor Representative

Did you read the Ted Diadiun column on Sunday December 2? (Don't bother trying to find it on the web--they place it in a secret location at cleveland.com) I read his defense of a stupid cartoon that was highly offensive, and tried to remember one time that he criticized his own paper. I can only think of one time that the someone in the paper criticized the coverage in the Plain Dealer--and I was not even sure if it was Diadiun. It was that front page photo of the suicide from Carter Manor that generated a great deal of internal criticism and public apologies. I do not believe that Diadiun could ever be considered my representative as a reader. He is the Defender of the Editors. Why not just admit it? With the stupid cartoon, he could have suggested an editor's note about how stupid it was and how the editors realized that it could be controversial. He just dismissed the readers who felt offended. If I dismissed some of my constituency when representing NEOCH at meetings, I would be fired. Hey, Ted, represent all of us, and stop dismissing our opinions. We all have important opinions and the Reader Rep. needs to sit at that table and speak up for those who were offended.


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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Challenge Appointed/Elected Officials

Spend Time with Their Family??

I do not understand why the media allows elected officials or executive branch appointees to get away with saying that they want to spend more time with their family. The executive and legislative branch officials have a solid term of service. These guys understood the length of service when they were appointed or won their election. They all hide behind "I want to spend more time with my family" when they resign. Were they caught off guard that the term was two, four, or six years? Did they not understand the job when they raised their hand to recite the oath of office? It is a fake excuse, and the media should challenge them when someone utters those fake words. "Sir, are you sure that your family wants to spend more time with you?"


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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Homeless Families Overwhelming NY City Shelters

  • NY Times: Sept. 4, 2007 -- A Challenge to New York City's Homeless Policy

  • There was an interesting article in the NY Times yesterday concerning the huge number of families who are staying in New York City homeless shelters, in spite of the fact that they are technically "ineligible" to do so. New York City is claiming that since these families have the ability to stay with friends or family in other apartments by "doubling up," they are voluntarily draining the system of resources and time.

    I believe New York City is greatly overestimating the generosity of its residents, as well as the laziness of these families. While "doubling up" can be preferable to staying in a homeless shelter, especially many of the homeless shelters in New York, it is not a realistic solution. The families in the article are right to protest and demand a better solution.

    Many landlords have rules against additional roommates who are not on the lease, and most apartments are really not feasible living spaces for multiple families. Few would find it acceptable for New York City to tell families they couldn't utilize emergency shelter because they owned a car or a tent. An overcrowded apartment is probably better than a car or a tent, but not necessarily by much.

    While I understand that New York City may not necessarily have the resources to provide proper care to the estimated 28,000 people utilizing its shelter systems, they should be able to come up with a better answer than "go find a different place to crash."

    The reality is that most people don't enter the shelter system until after they have "doubled up" for a period of time already. As these living situations become untenable, people move on to the shelter system. Many others attempt to live in their vehicles, and still others avoid the shelters entirely for a host of valid reasons. City planners across the country have to realize that shelters are typically a last resort for people, not the first step.

    Another thing I would have liked to see the article address is the reason for the huge increase in homeless families; "record numbers," according to the article. This is a direct result of the Bush administration's useless policy of fighting so-called "chronic" homelessness to the exclusion of really helping anyone else.

    As Brian so aptly described with his
  • Skittles simile
  • on NEOCH's blog, it is an exceedingly stupid waste of resources to chase the hardest and most resistant clients with the most resources, and screw everyone else in the process. The nation has seen a huge increase in homeless families as a result of this diversion of resources, and it was already difficult to find appropriate housing for families in the first place. Additionally, many cities, like Cleveland, have few, if any emergency shelters where families can stay together after they've become homeless. If the same is true for New York City's shelters, then it takes even greater gall for the New York City to whine as if these families were lining up for a free stay at the Ritz.

    Posted by Kevin

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    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    Plain Dealer Features Grapevine Photography Program

    Cleveland's own Minister of Culture, Michael Heaton, wrote an excellent piece in the Cleveland Plain Dealer yesterday about the ODDC (Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council) -funded Grapevine Photography program. Heaton interviewed several of the students for the piece, as well as social justice photographer Steve Cagan, and me.

    I thought Heaton did an excellent job weaving all of the elements of the story together, and he was extremely personable and friendly during the interview and in other conversations. I've only seen the version of the story published on Cleveland.com, so I didn't get to see which photos ran with the piece in yesterday's paper (I was out of town), but I definitely enjoyed the article.

  • Works by homeless photographers on display

  • Anyway, check it out if you get a chance, or swing by Phoenix Coffee on Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland to check out the photos. -Kevin

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    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    Grapevine Photography Program Celebrates Successful First Year

    In late March, The Homeless Grapevine started a photography training program under a grant from the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council. Noted Cleveland photographer Steve Cagan readily agreed to instruct the students.

    The students, comprised of currently and formerly homeless individuals, were set loose upon the City with cameras, and have already captured a number of thoughtful and
    provocative images in a short amount of time.

    The photos are currently on exhibition at Phoenix Coffee on Superior Avenue in
    downtown Cleveland. Proceeds from the sales of the photos at Phoenix and elsewhere will benefit the artists themselves and help sustain the program in future years.

    Future plans for the photography program include exhibitions in other local venues, and providing a space on NEOCH’s website for interested parties to purchase prints from these artists. Keep your eyes open for updates on NEOCH’s website, www.neoch.org, and stay tuned to watch the careers of these budding artists unfold.

    For more information about this or other programs, please contact Kevin Cleary at 216.432.0540, or email kevincleary@neoch.org.

    Top right photo: Students Howard Singleton and Jerome Pleasant pretend not to notice their picture is being taken during a class in April. Bottom left photo: Student Gary Waterbeck examines his photos after uploading them. Bottom right photo: Social justice photography guru and class instructor Steve Cagan describes the camera's menu options to student Cindy Miller on the first day of class. All photos in this release by Kevin E. Cleary.

    Monday, July 23, 2007

    A Grapevine promise

    Unlike some other media outlets, The Homeless Grapevine will not attempt to ruin the ending of "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows." On a side note, how is it that both iPhones and Harry Potter books were both handled with more security than many countries hold their nuclear weapons? -Kevin

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    A few Quick Media Thoughts

    Go Away Channel 19/Where is My Invitation?

    Last night Channel 19 "Action News" aired a report on the heat/cooling in our building. Don't they have anything better to work on? Aren't there any more poor people to pick on? Shouldn't they be spreading stereotypes about panhandlers? Can't they beat up on the Mayor or the City Council instead of wasting our time with this story? No, they sent the notorious Catherine Bosley out to interview staff in our building about the bizarre letter from our landlord telling us to stop complaining and identifying women as the cause of the problems. While the landlord note was offensive, it did not rise to the level of wasting the precious airtime of a television news channel. We did not comment, because Channel 19 is on our banned list, and why annoy our own landlord?

    We made a good decision, because the landlord actually came off looking sympathetic. It is very difficult to make a landlord look good, but Channel 19 did it. Just for a little context...last night while Channel 19 was handling the "naked female wrestling story" and the "toughen up" landlord story, a group of homeless people was surrounded and attacked by 20 young kids in Cleveland. We have had a week of attacks on homeless camps by young people with two people hospitalized. Last night, the camp was surrounded and homeless people were attacked. The two who were attacked are scared and moving today and were absolutely unaware how inappropriate NEOCH's landlord is.

    My Invitation Must have Got Lost
    I never got my invitation to the Doug Clifton, Editor of the Plain Dealer, retirement party. That is so strange; I don't know what happened? Clifton was on Monday's WCPN Sound of Ideas. There was something new that I had not heard from Clifton before on the show. While trying to defend his tenure at the PD, he talked about that controversy over sitting on the two stories last year out of fear of violating some court order. This was just after the jailing of Judy Miller and the threat to those reporters who got info. about the Scooter Libby release of the CIA identity of Valerie Plame. He made it seem that the source material that he was sitting on was not that reliable along with the legal implications of revealing information under court seal. I have heard and read a lot about this story, but this is the first I heard that the information was shaky.

    This brings up new questions with regard to the story. My biggest question is why the hell did he ever even mention this non-story publicly. I believe it set journalism back in the United States. For those who hate the media, they were saying, "I am glad that Justice Department took a tough stand against the media. It is working to shut the media up, because the PD had to back down in Cleveland in revealing secrets." Those who are big free speech advocates (like me) will say, "The media are wimps, and would not stand up to the Big Bad Justice Department." No good could have come from the release of the information that the PD was sitting on two stories especially now that we find out that the story was not solid. I hope that new editor, Ms. Goldberg, will have more backbone to stand up to Larken and the publisher and especially to stand up to state sponsored Censorship. Maybe she can figure out what happened to my invitation as well.


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    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Free Concerts Will Honor Daniel Thompson

    Come see Drumplay play this weekend and help support The Homeless Grapevine! Hope to see you there! -Kevin, Managing Editor

    8 p.m. Friday, May 11 -ConsciousNest (
    20150 Lakeshore Blvd in Euclid)

    8 p.m. Saturday, May 12 -Sandy Chanty (5457 Lake Rd. in Geneva-on-the-Lake)

    Press Release:

    Free Concerts Will Honor Daniel Thompson

    Poet Daniel Thompson received posthumous honors in 2005 from the City of Cleveland when West 2nd Street was renamed “Daniel’s Way” to commemorate the poet. Today, Thompson’s friends continue to remember and strive to honor his legacy.

    Drumplay, a band with whom Thompson frequently performed, is releasing a new album that features performances by Cleveland’s own “Bread Poet.” The band will be kicking off the release of their album, “Who’s Listening?” with two live benefit concerts, both starting at 8 p.m. on May 11th and 12th.

    The May 11th concert will be held at ConsciousNest in Euclid (20150 Lakeshore Blvd), and the following night’s show will take place at the Sandy Chanty in Geneva-on-the-Lake (5457 Lake Rd.)

    Both events are free and open to the public. Donations are requested to benefit The Homeless Grapevine newspaper, an empowerment project of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. Thompson regularly published his poems in the paper, and even paid to print a special issue in 2004, shortly before his death, to help the Grapevine avoid a brush with bankruptcy.

    According to James Onysko, front man for Drumplay, the release of “Who’s Listening?” marks the Crystal anniversary for two important milestones: the founding of Drumplay, and one of Daniel Thompson’s titular honors.

    “With this CD release party, we celebrate our 15 years; and it is also 15 years for Daniel Thompson as Poet Laureate of Cuyahoga County – having been so named on April 1, 1992, by the Cuyahoga County Commissioners. We dedicate our new ‘Who’s Listening?’ to our poet warrior,” said Onysko.

    For more information, contact:
    James Onysko


    Kevin E. Cleary

    Sunday, April 29, 2007

    Media Takes on Ending Homelessness

    Can We End Homelessness in 10 Years?

    It is increasingly rare to hear about homelessness on the radio, and last week Justice Talking on NPR featured an entire one hour episode on homelessness. So, we should not complain about any media exposure, but I really get frustrated when they relegate homeless people to the feature section of the program and save the debate for the "experts". We have talked about this bogus 10 year planning process to end homelessness that the Bush Administration is pushing. Justice Talking, one of the best weekend programs on NPR (not currently heard on-air in Cleveland), did a good overview of the issues and talked to people from around the United States. Margot Adler interviewed the point person for the Federal Government, a few local homeless social service providers, and the researcher who came up with this stupid focus on long term homeless people.

    Roosevelt Darby of Philadelphia was also on the show at the very end. He is a highly intelligent advocate who happens to have had a history of homelessness. Darby is on the National Coalition for the Homeless' Board of Directors, and has thought long and hard about solving homelessness. Why did he not get to weigh in on the theme of the show: can government end homelessness in 10 years? He has a good story about his getting off the streets, but he also has a unique perspective on the ending homelessness. I wish that they had started with Roosevelt's story and then had given him a chance to answer the question about how he would end homelessness. Darby also could have given his opinion about where the feds are going wrong with their plan.

    Justice Talking reporters interviewed Phil Mangano, the best spin doctor within the Bush Administration. (Yes, he is better than Dan Bartlett or Tony Snow.) He heads the Interagency Council on Homelessness in Washington DC, but he spends very little time in the nation's capital. The reporter treated Mangano as some kind of rock star and treated him to softball questions. They should have pummeled him with questions about the federal commitment to ending homelessness. The guy travels enough to to run one of the big shelters in Cleveland. He does ribbon cuttings in all the major cities that are completing these plans, while he knows in his heart that these have no chance of making any difference in America. He knows that without income support to afford rent, universal health care (even for those with a mental illness), and a massive federal infusion of decent, safe affordable housing we have no chance to do anything but manage the problem.

    His job is to get all the federal agencies (HHS, Labor, Education, HUD, Veterans, etc.) all on the same page toward ending homelessness. This has not worked in New Orleans, which is the become the living breathing sign of our failure to address poverty in America. He cuts ribbons in Pittsburgh while his boss cuts their public housing budget. Then he flies off to Topeka, Kansas for the christening of their 10 year plan to manage homelessness--only the media is told that it is a plan to end homelessness. I have the utmost respect for everyone who attempts to make it a better day for their fellow travelers looking for housing. There is no more honorable job then domestic violence hotline worker, or shelter monitor, or outreach professional even if most of the time they cannot solve people's problems. Mangano is one of the people that I have nothing but contempt for because he has the power to make a real difference in the United States, but instead he spends his time counting to 10 and making strategic planning consultants rich throughout the United States.


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    Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    Hold the Vanilla With My Morning Coffee

    Plain Dealer Story Misses the Point

    This morning the Plain Dealer had a story about a strip club and the City possibly helping to relocate the club to another location. I am the one who gave the Plain Dealer this story, I just wish that someone else had written the article. I have never been a big fan of Susan Vanilla's skills as a journalist, and this story reinforces my belief she often misses the big picture. The story was what will happen to the 150 guys who sleep at Aviation High School every night. The real story was that the City and County have struggled with this for over one year, missed a few deadlines at this point, and have not resolved the issue. Who the hell cares about a strip club unless this is a big stomping ground for neighbors like bored reporters from Cleveland's only daily?

    There are huge changes ahead if and when Aviation closes, and I am sure people would read the story without the sex angle added. What makes a shelter so unsafe that the feds want it closed because it is near the airport? Will Cleveland turn away from the guaranteed access to shelter because of overcrowded conditions when Aviation closes and there is no overflow? How many more people will choose to sleep on Superior Ave. after Aviation closes? Who is making these decisions and have homeless people commented on this plan? Why would the County not ask any experts (maybe like homeless people who actually sleep at the shelter) to review the plan? What is the largest shelter going to look like after closing Aviation and adding another 60 guys who do not want to join a program or work with a social worker? How can we afford to pay so much for the motel, when the women's shelter still needs to be made into a real shelter and not just two buildings that happen to be next to each other? I could go on with the good questions that could be asked, but I wish the Plain Dealer had asked them and not focused on the stupid strip club.


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    Thursday, March 29, 2007

    A New Plan

    Solving Homelessness One Story at a Time

    We have had 20 years of failing to solve homelessness, so I am suggesting a new course of action. As you may have seen Jack Hanrahan became homeless in Cleveland after living it up in Hollywood. Last week the Plain Dealer reported on former writer, Jack Hanrahan's story of rags to riches. A day later there were offers of help from all over the city. The story was picked up far and wide in blogs and in newspapers across the United States. Just by writing a story, The Plain Dealer staff were able to solve someone's homelessness. If they could do one story a day on a different homeless person, they could solve 365 people's homelessness in one year. They may have to make up some stories about doing make up for Chuck Norris or a local homeless woman starring in one of the Ed Wood classics, because the public seems to be more sympathetic to the plight of homeless people who were once famous. This is not to say that the Hanrahan story was not true, I am sure that the Hanrahan story was true, but there are about 1,000 similar stories everyday on the streets of Cleveland. This demonstrates the power of the media.

    If you read the latest Homeless Grapevine you will see that the average homeless social service providers is only able to find around 25 people housing per year in Cleveland. In fact, only one or two programs in Cleveland found over 100 people housing locally in a one year period. If the Plain Dealer accepted my strategy, they would be the first or second best housing placement agency in the community. C'mon, Larkin do something for the good of the community--become a housing placement agency by turning O'Malley out to do one feature story a day and significantly reduce homelessness.


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    Monday, March 26, 2007

    My Generation: Why my younger sister is one of my heroes

    by Kevin E. Cleary

    Years before Tom Brokaw wrote his famous book “The Greatest Generation,” I was being clubbed over the head with the notion that my generation was a complete waste of DNA. I sit on the cusp of two demographics, Generation X, (aka the post-Boomers) and the generation that is being called the Millennial generation. Neither is particularly renowned for its volunteering spirit or selflessness.

    Growing up, I always resented the implication that my generation would sit idly by while Hitler conquered the world, that somehow, we were all worthless and ungrateful brats. I’ve always felt that there are good people and bad people of every age, race, gender, and creed, and still do.

    But, I’ve got to tell you, MTV and the mainstream media do very little to promote the idea that anyone under 65 cares about the world at large. I have shaken my head in disgust at shows like “My Super Sweet Sixteen” in which spoiled rich kids compete to have the most opulent parties. I have watched the rise of reality shows in which backstabbing and promiscuity are enshrined as virtues; and I have seen teenagers become a threat to homeless people more dreaded than Cleveland’s brutal winters.

    It’s easy to believe the cynical notion that my generation cares only about celebrities, iPods, and themselves. It’s hard to argue that Gen X-ers or Millennials are making real contributions to society when all that you see on television is the near-constant fulfillment of our carnal desires. But I maintain my faith in humanity when I think about people like my younger sister Katie.

    Katie is 21 years old, and a junior at Kent State. She works hard and studies hard every day, and could very easily be spending her much-deserved Spring Break on a beach in Florida somewhere. Instead, she ponied up a large sum of her own hard-earned money to take a bus down to Biloxi, Mississippi this week to help rebuild an area that is still devastated by the hurricanes of 2005.

    Personally, I think Katie would have shown this volunteering spirit and concern for others even if our parents hadn’t drilled it into us, but I must say that I am amazingly proud of my little sister. There is no reason other than her inherent kindness that she is spending this week in obscenely humid weather doing hard, physical labor. By contrast, I did nothing but complain when my Spring Break was absorbed by the unintentionally complicated process of getting the latest issue of The Homeless Grapevine to press (more on that in a later post). When Katie told me of her Spring Break plans, I was quietly ashamed that I had whined so much.

    But as proud as I am of my sister, I also have to say that she is not entirely unique in our generation. While Katie is an exceptional person, I cannot say that her kindness and volunteering are entirely unique. For example, a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of making a presentation to Katie’s residents (she works as a resident assistant at Kent) with Erin Huber, who is the founder of Covering Cleveland. Huber is somewhere in between Katie’s age and my own (I am 25, for the record). Huber started Covering Cleveland several years ago when she was still a teenager, and has spent her “free time” distributing blankets to homeless people ever since.

    Then there are the countless AmeriCorps VISTAs, Peace Corps, and other service volunteers, many of whom are also under 30. These individuals get paid less than minimum wage to address the world’s toughest problems, and many help form the backbone of our nation’s non-profits. They selflessly contribute their time, creativity and drive to helping others, and I find it a shame that their efforts are never forwarded to counter the claim that our generations are worthless.

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    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    Lets Try this Again...

    Maybe License is the Wrong Word...

    There seems to be some confusion over my use of the word "license", so let me try this again. How about a "Seal of Approval" by a reputable Journalist Society offered to journalists? Just as the fortune tellers...I mean...weather people are now monitored as Meteorologists how about the same structure for their partners at the anchor table? Each station wants to trump its competition by featuring as many Meteorologists as possible. How long ago would the Godfather of weather people, Dick Goddard, have been replaced by a cute young woman reading the forecast if there was not this competition for accurate forecasts by meteorologists. There is some regulation and oversight of these weather people and I assume that their seals can be withdrawn if they start predicting snow in July.

    I am not suggesting that you have to go to Journalism school to get a "seal of approval. " I am also not saying that you have to get a "Seal of Approval" before you write anything. I am just saying that if you want to be identified as a journalist then you have to agree to certain standards of fairness, balance, and quality reporting on the facts. Many professions must get a seal of approval or license to operate, and we cheapen the practice of journalism by not setting some standards. Does a beautician or a contractor or a psychiatrist have more impact on our life than a journalist?

    We regulate professions for health concerns, the spread of infectious disease, and public safety. Why can't we view tabloid yellow journalism as the spread of distortions that undermine our democracy? If reputable journalists do not get together to shut down the tabloids, they will continue to lose credibility in our society. The first amendment will be meaningless, if there is nothing left to defend. Who is going to rise up to save Channel 19 or Fox News or the ability to see death, blood and sex on the evening news?


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    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    The Fifth Estate

    Last week, Brian wrote a post expressing his frustration with journalists and called for an internal association to "license" journalists. That post, which is further down on our page here, or can be read at http://homelessgrapevine.blogspot.com/2007/03/licensing-of-journalists.html incited a lot of comments (well, 8 comments is a lot for this blog) from the likes of Roldo Bartimole, John Ettorre, and others.

    I thought I would throw my two cents into the mix here. Here goes...

    I think the need for a journalism degree has hampered the profession in many respects. My experience with journalism classes is that you spend a lot of time doing facile AP Style book exercises and very little actual journalism.

    From my understanding, copy boys used to be able to work their way up the system to become reporters, thus Jimmy Olsen (the actual Jimmy Olsen of "Superman" fame, not that Tabloid News hack Ed Gallek) was a cub reporter. Individuals who were experts in their field could also become newspaper writers later in their career.

    I think this apprenticeship model and the ability to move upward in a company on merit were better than the current environment. As another newspaper man, Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) once remarked, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." I think the current environment puts too much emphasis on schooling, and not enough on actual reporting ability.

    Furthermore, as journalism has become increasingly professionalized, so have all the other jobs in the field. It's almost impossible to imagine a copy boy or girl working his way up to become Editor in Chief of The Plain Dealer without first being extruded through college, a bunch of lower-circulation papers in far-flung towns, a flogging by Feagler, etc.

    There's also the instinct to protect one's own, as Mr. Ettorre mentioned, which has undermined reporting. In the old days, there was a friendly competition amongst reporters for the same paper, but there was also competition for the same stories even in small towns from other papers. Now, the competition is between corporate entities to see which can have the most profitable news department by spending as few resources as possible.

    All in all, I would say that the blogosphere has been a boon to reporting, if also a huge pain in the ass to the reporters themselves. Sure, the public still gets non-stories and Tabloid News, and Ann Coulter, but many blogs have also appointed themselves as media watchdogs and "citizen journalists." It's a lot harder for news monopolies to control and spin the news when a million angry bloggers (right or left wing) are watching your every move.

    My father and his best friend became friends on a precursor to the Internet: billboards and newsgroups. Even then, members of the group were going to great lengths to disprove each other's claims. One newsgroup member drove across several states to check out a book from a library to prove false another member's claim to have served in Vietnam.

    I think, just as one essential function of the fourth estate is to keep government honest, an evolving function of the blogosphere is to keep the media honest. Certainly not every member of the blogosphere will perform this function, and some will do it better than others. But I see the benefits of what I call the fifth estate greatly outweighing its detriments in the marketplace of ideas. We would do better to empower the watchdogs than to attempt to enact another echelon of control within the journalistic community.

    -Kevin, Managing Editor, The Homeless Grapevine

    P.S. In response to Mr. Ettorre's concern that Brian is ignoring the Constitution, I would say emphatically that he is well-versed in its tenets. I believe you may be misinterpreting his statements. Don't forget this administration's tendency, and the tendency of all administrations (Republican or Democratic) to ignore the Constitution when it is "inconvenient."

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    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    The Problem with the Plain Dealer

    How to Improve Cleveland's Daily?

    The Coalition has received a great deal of ink this last week, and that is a good thing. I am very appreciative of all the work of the Plain Dealer, and the stories dedicated to poverty. The reporters are great, and should be given more discretion in the stories to cover. After all, they know a good story and they are closer to the average reader than the editors. Anyway, here are my suggestions, as the average reader, to increase the readers so there will be no further decline in the staff. I am trying to help their bottom line by increasing their circulation.

    First, they need a better website. It takes way too many clicks to find the news. That is the heart of website, but everyday the web people seem to move the news to a new place. I always feel like there is this hide and seek game with the news on the Cleveland.com website. Also, when I click on Metro News why do I have to go through national news? I just want to read about Cleveland or Ohio. I do not turn to the Plain Dealer for news on Iraq, Bush, Congress, or stories from Los Angeles. In the information age with computers, the Plain Dealer needs to give us the news from Cleveland and from the perspective of Clevelanders. They could have a page of links to national stories that are summarized in the daily. A total redesign of the Plain Dealer website is a must to increase web traffic. I like the Opener blog, and we need more of that.

    Second, throw away all but a summary of the national news within the paper. I am too busy to have to wade through the national news when I can go to the New York Times, Washington Post and all the other news outlets that do a much better job. I don't even have cable, but most people do and by the time the story is in print it must have already appeared on CNN and MSNBC about 40 times. Any national news should be written by Cleveland reporters and tell us how it impacts me. Tell me how the Federal budget is going to effect RTA or CMHA or the Cleveland Public Schools. Just give a page or two of the most important stories and let me know that more information is available on the website.

    Give the local reporters the chance to put in a lot of stories and do not cut them down to a few hundred words. That series that started today on the Sunshine Law was nice and enjoyable to read. The Medicaid Story from today is important and every aspect of the budget should be analyzed in just as much detail. Reporters should be given the opportunity to spread their wings and write. They should all write a lot and every day. They should write about regional government everyday. They should write about the poorest city in the United States everyday. They should write about job creation efforts everyday. They should write about the growing health care crisis in every paper that is pushed out the door.

    Fourth, the Plain Dealer covers some things in depth, but then ignores most of the City. They need to diversify their selection of topics to cover. They have this great book review section on Sunday. What about similar efforts for music, television shows, blogs, photography, painting and modern art? They could take a weekly look at college radio, workers comp claims, housing starts, health care discoveries, the Ohio National Guard activities in Iraq, the state of civil rights, and anti war efforts. The Plain Dealer could dedicate the same space to Labor as they do Business. There should be as much space dedicated to democracy/government as is dedicated to Sports. The Plain Dealer should significantly expand its consumer affairs section to take on utility issues, mortgage lenders, telecommunication companies, and health care providers.

    Finally, we need some more profiles of everyday people. The business section on Sunday has turned into the lifestyles of the rich and famous with these lengthy features on the Presidents of KeyBank or University Hospital. How about some similar space to the lady who gets up every morning to open Starbucks and then cleans up the McDonald Building at night so that her kids can eat? How about a feature on my elderly neighbor who had to spend 9 hours waiting in the emergency room of Huron Hospital when she was sick? How about a story about the mail carrier who delivered mail on February 14 over mountains of snow?

    Hope that this helps. Get rid of Brent Larkin/Dick Feagler and take up my suggestions and I would consider subscribing again.


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    Sunday, March 04, 2007

    Licensing of Journalists

    Fourth Estate? Then Act Like It

    I have no problem defending the Balco Reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle or the blogger who is sitting in jail for not handing over the tape of the anti-war protesters that damaged a California police car, but these reporters seem to be the exception rather than the rule. For every champion of journalism who write stories about Walter Reed or Extraordinary Rendition Flights, there are two reporters at Channel 19 who care very little about society. For every Seymore Hersh there are five Michelle Malkins or Ann Coulters. With citizen journalists spreading like wildfire in blogs, we seem to have one Froomkin created, there are five extremist blogs proclaiming the assaults on homeless people everyday.

    Lawyers have a role to play in this discussion. While there are many scummy lawyers and a million more lawyer jokes then journalist jokes, they have a governing structure in place. The Bar Associations' license lawyers and enforce rules. So, in theory, a lawyer who is abusing his authority can be brought up on maleficence charges and have their ability to practice law stripped. This means that if a lawyer breaks the law they lose the ability to practice law. Why can't we do the same for journalism?

    The Society of Professional Journalists must start licensing journalists or the government will start doing it for them. We need to start taking this practice seriously and separate the real journalists from the fakes. The decisions made by journalists have consequences for ruining people's lives or for causing grief, suicide or even murder. The genocide in Rhwanda were carried out using the radio commentators to urge citizens to kill Tutsis. If journalists want to be taken seriously they must figure out how to separate the real from the O'Reilly types. They must set up a structure to license journalists with an enforcement mechanism to strip bad journalists from practicing their craft. Then the disgraced could go about their business as outsiders commenting on the news but not pretending to be journalists.


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    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    Interaction with the Media

    Difficult Time for Homeless People

    Yes, these have been some hard times for homeless people. The media wants to know why would anyone be outside in this horrible weather? Now, I am sure that the young woman and men who come to ask questions are fine upstanding citizens who care about the world, but they don't make them like they used to. Reporters of the past knew everything about everything. If they did not understand why homeless people slept outside, they became homeless for a period of time to find out. If they wanted to know about low income workers they went to work at a temporary labor company. If they needed to know about the health care crisis in America, they hung out on the front lines in the emergency room. There were no embedded journalists or journalists camped in the relatively calm green zone. Journalists were on the front lines. It seems that those days are gone, and so now the height of investigative journalism is watching perverts in the library.

    Anyway, the pretty faces that grace our television every night don't really understand the people that they cover. This is fine if they were detached observers, but now they are wearing their ignorance proudly on camera. They wonder out loud about how crazy it is to reject shelter. They criticize the criminals even before conviction. The announcers specialize in empty banter between stories, but do not understand government, power, or how things work in this world. I am not sure that many of the journalists of today are prepared, but certainly television journalists are more prepared for the runway then the broadcasting of the news.


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    Wednesday, February 07, 2007

    Carl Monday, Please Don’t Get Mad at Our Vendors for My Actions

    by Kevin E. Cleary

    I want to apologize to any Homeless Grapevine vendor who gets rejected by Carl Monday. It’s my fault, don’t blame Mr. Monday.

    Two weeks ago, one of our vendors, Arthur Jr., called me during one of his regular shifts selling The Homeless Grapevine at the West Side Market. He breathlessly reported that he had sold this national celebrity and local investigative reporter a copy of our latest issue.

    Arthur Jr. was very excited and talked at length about how nice Mr. Monday was, and how he had seemed receptive to Arthur Jr.’s suggestion that homelessness should get more coverage in the media. The whole time he was talking, alarm bells were ringing in my head. I’ve been looking everywhere for hidden cameras ever since.

    Then, last week, another vendor, Mike, came into the office to get papers. He started telling me about one of his recent shifts at the Market, and was quite upset. The conversation went something like this:

    “You know who’s an a**hole?” asked Mike.
    “The President?” I replied, half-joking.
    “No, Carl Monday! I asked him if he’d like to buy a copy of The Homeless Grapevine, and he yelled, ‘No!’ all angrily and stormed off.”

    I was then compelled to explain to Mike that, to the best of my knowledge, Cleveland’s Investigative Reporter bore no hostility to him in particular. I explained that I had Photoshopped Mr. Monday’s head onto SuperHost’s body to make an amusing picture, and that Mr. Monday had probably seen it in the paper and hadn’t found it that funny.

    I even watched the news with trepidation last night, as Mr. Monday was reporting from the West Side Market. But it turned out he was just following people around to see if they washed their hands after going to the bathroom.

    I was saddened to hear that Mr. Monday’s final report on WKYC will take place tonight, also from the West Side Market. I must say that following people into the bathroom with a camera seems beneath him as a final report. After all, I’m sure he could find some other 17-year old kid masturbating in a library, or some more smokers in the Justice Center parking lot to use as his final “gotcha.”

    But perhaps he’s saving these for when he returns to Channel 19's Tabloid News. In the mean time, I’m still watching for hidden cameras and am washing my hands after every time I Photoshop.

    On that note, I’ve decided to stop using the SuperHost picture of Mr. Monday. I don’t want to put the paper at risk by offending him, and I’d like Mr. Monday to read our paper in the future, so our vendors can earn a living. Therefore, I present our new mascot, Blake Friday:

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Jesus Returns to Cleveland

    Did I say Jesus? I meant Connie Schultz. I know I'm only the fake Editor of The Plain Dealer, but it seems a bit ridiculous to me to devote 1390 words to a profile of a returning journalist. I understand that her husband is a senator and that's unusual. But this front page story (at least on Cleveland.com, where it was listed as a Top Story) was just a paean to Schultz. How do the other journalists and writers at the paper feel about this? I have made jokes about doing a tribute issue of The Homeless Grapevine to myself. But I have never seen such fawning praise of an individual writer published by the same paper who employs that writer; at least not one that masqueraded as a feature story.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm happy Schultz is back. We need more people paying attention to poverty in this area, and The Plain Dealer is lucky to have her on their staff. But most papers would have just sent out a press release and maybe paid some other people to advertise her return. I suppose that since The Plain Dealer serves as Cleveland's News MonopolyTM, they figured no one else had a high enough circulation to promote the paper properly. After this, what's next? A 4 page story about how hip "Minister of Culture" Michael Heaton is, and whether or not he will cut his hair? When you're done reading it, don't miss WNCX's 17 hour tribute to the musical genius of Michael Stanley...


    Posted by Kevin E. Cleary,
    Fake Editor of The Plain Dealer

    Monday, January 22, 2007

    My New Job

    I certainly see some challenges ahead for my tenure as the Editor of The Plain Dealer. First, there will be the wrangling over parking spots. Feagler has had his eye on Clifton’s spot for quite a while, and he won’t take kindly to me moving in. He’s been vying for it by complaining quite a bit about a hernia, and then going off on long diatribes about how they used to be called “himnias” until political correctness and voting rights for women came along.

    The Plain Dealer has also taken a lot of heat over political endorsements. I’m going in with the operating assumption that other voters think like I do and vote against whomever the paper recommends. We’ll be taking the reverse psychology approach to our endorsements in 2007. Instead of telling you who to vote for, we’ll tell you NOT to vote for the candidates we support. I think this will go over much better than our previous policy: talking about how bad a candidate is, their incompetence, etc., and then recommending them anyway.

    I also plan to keep a longstanding tradition alive. Regardless of the season or other world events, Cleveland Browns coverage will always eclipse everything else. If Winslow gets injured, the entire front page will be an enlarged copy of his X-ray. There are only three exception to this Browns rule: 1) if LeBron James leaves Cleveland for more money, 2) if the Cleveland Indians win the World Series, and 3) if Art Modell is finally hung by a mob like Mussolini. For instance, our front page the day after Superbowl Sunday will focus on which Browns players watched the Superbowl from local bars, and which player had the nicest mansion and hi-def television.

    To those politicians fearful of a new reign at the PD, I promise we will do what we have always done. We will bury embarrassing news about politicians we like and excoriate those we don’t. Pat O’Malley’s next DUI or abused spouse will be kept from the public eye as much as we can help it. If the powers that be want us to put a lid on how many jobs and citizens keep leaving Cleveland, we’ll make sure it stays a “Quiet Crisis.” However, if Carl Monday or Ed Gallek starts talking about you, we will have to break this agreement. Just promise not to do anything colossally stupid enough to make me break the Browns rule...

    Posted by Kevin E. Cleary,
    Fake Editor of The Plain Dealer