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

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Goodbye Doug Clifton

Grapevine Staff Ready to Step Up

It looks like we will probably be losing Kevin Cleary, the Grapevine's Managing Editor now that the PD Editor has announced his retirement. It is a natural progression to move from Managing Editor of the Grapevine to the more challenging job of Editor of Cleveland's only daily newspaper. We are all resolved to waiting for the call from Publisher, Terry Egger, to begin negotiations with our own Kevin Cleary on his ability to construct a smoking area for hard working reporters at Plain Dealer Plaza as Editor. One day covering the front lines of poverty at the Grapevine to "On the Road to Glendale" following a group of reporters as they party their way to the College Football National Championship Game in Arizona.

Doug Clifton, as was widely reported, is retiring in June from a long career at the Plain Dealer. He brought home the bacon by delivering a Pulitzer Prize, but there were bumps in the road during his tenure. Clifton was not willing to take on the government over a couple of stories that they had government sources, but were afraid to go to press because it was likely that their reporters would have been thrown into jail on contempt charges. He was never able to convince the editors to represent the interests of the Cuyahoga County community over the business interests of a few members of the editorial board and the previous publisher. As editor, he certainly must take responsibility for some of the editorial endorsements that did harm to our community. I am still waiting for an apology for the second Taft for Governor endorsement over one of our own local politicians, Tim Hagen. By any measure and according to both Republicans and Democrats, Taft was a horrible governor and he certainly did great harm to Cuyahoga County.

Some of the inside baseball moves made by Clifton have done harm to the mother city of Cleveland. In an effort to raise circulation numbers among people who can afford to pay for a daily newspaper, Clifton has redirected reporters to the suburbs away from Cleveland stories. This has allowed huge stories within the city to get little coverage that we will all live with for decades and given mundane stories from Gates Mills a forum. The possible closing of the Third District police station, the explosion in foreclosures that the PD only recently discovered, and neighborhood wars going on over gentrification vs. housing affordability. I do not understand why the national news stories reprinted from AP, NY Times, or Washington Post reporters never explain the impact on Cuyahoga County.

In Clifton's first few years, homelessness received a lot of ink, but that wore off. Homeless people protesting did not translate to increased circulation evidently. Clifton certainly had a soft spot for human services, but was never willing to take on some of these dinosaurs in the non-profit sector on for maintaining the status quo and never solving any problems. Clifton's biography will tie him to bringing the Pulitzer to Cleveland, but behind the scenes the editors were trying to get Shultz to move away from the very stories that she won the award for. The editorial policy was certainly slanted to the business community, but I would also argue that it was hostile and even cruel to those struggling with poverty.

Clifton has kept or attracted some very good reporters to the paper. There are some talented reporters who need more freedom to bring us good stories. The daily newspaper is the leader in local news, and it is a missed opportunity to ignore the television news. The daily newspaper could do a lot more to criticize and demand standards from the other journalists in Cleveland. Competition is fine, but allowing the line between news and commentary to disappear at some news outlets has caused great harm to our community. I like the opening of the newsroom that Clifton has tried over the last few years. Are the other editors listening to the voices of poor people because of this process? See the heart of the problem is that a substantial majority of the residents of Cleveland cannot afford to buy the paper, and so the publishers market to the people who can afford to pay for the service. This turns away the other residents of the poorest city, and eventually the paper has almost no relationship with its host city.

Kevin Cleary, as the new editor, needs to do everything in his power to reach out to those who live in Cleveland. He needs to take to heart the often cited but mostly ignored maxim, "As Cleveland goes so goes the region." It should be a point of pride for Kevin that the majority of Clevelanders read the paper. With support of those living in Cleveland, an editor will have a great deal of freedom and can help the city move forward. Residents of Cleveland need to find the problems with police response time, crime, graffiti, education funding, and health care frequent topics for the only daily paper in Cleveland. They need to read voices that reflect the diversity of Cleveland from the problems of the Latino consumers trying to get groceries in the Clark Fulton neighborhood or the African American residents in the East Side trying to figure out if their local churches have forgotten about the needs of the neighborhood in favor of the middle class driving in from the suburbs. Kevin, we need the Cleveland Plain Dealer to reflect the interests and needs of Cleveland.

Brian Davis

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Always Trying to Pick a Fight

Channel 19 Hates Cleveland

I really believe that all the harm done to Cleveland by federal policies, foreclosures, NAFTA, and the Ohio Legislature apartheid system for funding schools are high on the list, but Channel 19 is certainly in the top 10. This tabloid news channel spreads more fear than the other stations combined. They condemn the administration on a regular basis even though the last two Mayors were very responsive to their tabloid demands. Jackson cleaned up the airport at the urging of Jimmy Olsen at Channel 19, and Campbell passed the panhandling ordinance at the behest of the station.

They routinely spread fear about crime waves, and feature the worst of our society. They routinely demand changes in the law, but never compliment the government for bowing to their wishes. They are an obstacle to progress and are an insult to the First Amendment. The most shameful aspect of all of this is that they boast being the number one television news broadcast. Now, I realize that they spin ratings, but how is this even remotely possible?