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.