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 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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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with all your comments, and would add two more:

1.)Get rid of the stupid columnists...seriously, who cares what these bozos think? Let them start a blog on their own and go get a real job.

2.)As a suburbanite, there's even LESS coverage of where I live than what you get for Cleveland's neighborhoods...the paper and website have no relevance to my life at all. And the Sun Newspapers (also owned by the PD) are written weakly and printed weekly - they're a joke. Report local news for the entire region, or continue to lose readers to indifference and death.

4:44 PM  

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