The Plain Dealer
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The Plain Dealer

The Plain Dealer
The Plain Dealer (2007-08-08).svg
TypeNewspaper
FormatBroadsheet
Owner(s)Advance Publications
(Newhouse Newspapers)
Founded1842; 178 years ago (1842)
HeadquartersPlain Dealer Publishing Co
4800 Tiedeman Road
Brooklyn, Ohio 44144
U.S.
Circulation116,092 daily and 255,683 Sunday[1]
Websitecleveland.com
plaindealer.com

The Plain Dealer is the major newspaper of Cleveland, Ohio, United States. According to an analysis of circulation data published in March 2013, the newspaper was among the top 25 newspapers for both daily and Sunday circulation in the United States.[2]

As of 2015, The Plain Dealer had more than 250,000 daily readers and 790,000 readers on Sunday.[3]The Plain Dealer's media market, the Cleveland-Akron Designated Market Area, as a population of 3.8 million people, making it the nineteenth-largest market in the United States.[4]

In April 2013 The Plain Dealer announced it would reduce home delivery to three days a week, including Sunday.[5] This went into effect on August 5, 2013. A daily version of The Plain Dealer is available electronically as well as in print at stores, newsracks and newsstands.

History and ownership

Front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer dated August 7, 1945 featuring the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

The newspaper was established in 1842, less than 50 years after Moses Cleaveland landed on the banks of the Cuyahoga River in The Flats, and is currently owned by Advance Publications.[6]

Since the late 20th century, like others in the media business, the newspaper has faced numerous changes, sales, restructuring and staff layoffs. Prior to its purchase by an S.I. Newhouse company, the paper was previously published through The Plain Dealer Publishing Company, part of the Forest City Publishing Company, which also published the Cleveland News until its purchase and subsequent closing by its major competitor, the Cleveland Press, owned by the E.W. Scripps Company, in 1960.[7]:10

On December 18, 2005, The Plain Dealer ceased publication of its weekly Sunday Magazine, which had been published continuously for over 85 years.[8] The demise of the paper's Sunday Magazine was attributed to the high cost of newsprint and declining revenue. The PD reassigned the associated editors, designers and reporters to other areas of the newspaper. It also assured readers that the stories that would formerly have appeared in the Sunday Magazine would be integrated into other areas of the paper.

Name

The newspaper's name was changed from The Cleveland Advertiser to The Plain Dealer in 1842 by Joseph William Gray and Admiral Nelson Gray, two brothers who had taken over the newspaper in what is considered its founding.[9][10] After discussing a number of other possible names, they wrote, "but our democracy and modesty suggest the only name that befits the occasion, the PLAIN DEALER."[9] The phrase means "someone who interacts or does business straightforwardly and honestly."[11] Their choice was probably inspired by The Plaindealer, a weekly paper that has been described as Jacksonian or radical, published in New York City by William Leggett from 1836 to either 1837 or 1839.[10][12][13][14] Newspapers in Iowa[15][16][17] and Montana[18] later used the same name in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with an apparent descendant still published in Cresco, Iowa as the Cresco Times Plain Dealer.[19] Also similarly named is the Souris Plaindealer, a community newspaper that has served Souris, Manitoba, since 1892.[20]Winston Churchill reportedly said about the Cleveland paper, "I think that by all odds, the Plain Dealer has the best newspaper name of any in the world."[9][21] Although its first edition in 1842 was captioned simply "The Plain Dealer," the newspaper's masthead name included "Cleveland" for much of its history, and dropped the city name sometime after 1965.[12][22]

Ownership history

Joseph William Gray owned (with his brother) and edited the newspaper from 1842 until his death in 1862.[10] A series of editors controlled the paper between then and 1885, when real estate investor Liberty Emery Holden purchased it.[23][24] When Holden died in 1913, ownership of the Plain Dealer was placed in trust for his heirs.[10] One of his heirs, Holden's great-grandson Thomas Vail, became the paper's editor and publisher in 1963.[10] On March 1, 1967, the Holden trustees, including Vail, sold the Plain Dealer to S.I. Newhouse's newspaper chain for $54.2 million.[7]:234[10]Advance Publications Inc., a Newhouse-owned media company, continues to own the Plain Dealer.

Politifact Ohio

In July 2010, The Plain Dealer launched PolitiFact Ohio,[25] a website that analyzes political issues relevant to Ohio and the greater Cleveland area. It also conducted fact-checking and was produced in conjunction with its creator, the Tampa Bay Times. Four years later, the relationship was ended. Although the operation had generated criticism, the decision to drop it was attributed instead to a desire to keep all content on Cleveland.com rather than the separate PolitiFact Ohio site, which remains available as an archive.[26]

Separate newsrooms, and downsizing

In the early 2000s, The Plain Dealer employed nearly 350 reporters and editors;[27] that statistic may now be a single-digit number.[28]

At a certain point, the owners of The Plain Dealer established cleveland.com as the online sister organization of The Pain Dealer, which became the company producing only the on-paper product; the Plain Dealer's editor described cleveland.com as "our sister company."[29] Cleveland.com is now described by its owners as "the premier news and information website in the state of Ohio."[30] Cleveland.com is the digital outlet for The Plain Dealer's past and present content.[31] The staff at cleveland.com, unlike the staff at the Plain Dealer, is not unionized.[32]

On the morning of Wednesday, July 31, 2013, nearly one third of the newsroom staff was eliminated through layoffs and voluntary resignations. The Plain Dealer's corporate owner, New York-based Advance Publications Inc., a private company run by the heirs of S.I. Newhouse, was implementing a strategy to cut staff and publication schedules in order to focus more on online news delivery. Previously, in December 2012, under an agreement with the Newspaper Guild, nearly two dozen union newsroom staff voluntarily accepted severance packages.[33] The July round of layoffs led to accusations by the Guild that management had misled the union by cutting more employees than had been agreed upon.[34]

On August 5, 2013, the Northeast Ohio Media Group launched and The Plain Dealer Publishing Company was formed. Northeast Ohio Media Group operates Cleveland.com and Sun Newspapers (also known as the Sun News suburban papers). It is responsible for all multimedia ad sales and marketing for The Plain Dealer, Sun News and Cleveland.com. It also provides content to The Plain Dealer, Cleveland.com and Sun News. The Plain Dealer Publishing Company provides content and publishes in print seven days a week. However, the company announced in 2013 that it would cut back home delivery in light of declining revenue.[35] The company also provides production, distribution, finance, information technology, accounting and other support services for the Plain Dealer Publishing Co. and Northeast Ohio Media Group.

In January 2016, NEOMG was renamed "Advance Ohio"[36][37][38] several weeks following a major reorganization of the newsroom that included layoffs.[39]

In February 2017, Advance Ohio named Chris Quinn editor and publisher.[40] Quinn previously served as vice president of content at NEOMG[41] and was metro editor at The Plain Dealer prior to that.

The Plain Dealer announced plans to lay off a third of its unionized staff in December 2018 as part of a transition to a "centralized production system".[42][43][44][45]

In March 2019, the paper laid off twelve (or fourteen) editors and reporters, and also outsourced its production, dropping another 24 jobs.[46][47][48][49] Eight veteran reporters volunteered to take buyouts to spare others losing their jobs.[50][51] Quinn attributed the falling revenue to the print side of the operation.[52] "It's just the falling circulation numbers in print, they continue to hamper us", Quinn said.[53] "So we'll -- you hate to see them go, they're veteran people, it's a lot of experience. Nothing matters more. But if it fits for where they are in their lives, and we can save some money, we're going for it." Rachel Dissell, a vice president of the News Guild, addressed Quinn's remarks, saying "we are baffled how print circulation can be blamed for buyouts at a digital company that we've been told again and again over five years is a separate entity from the Plain Dealer."[53]

Tim Warsinskey became editor of the Plain Dealer on March 1, 2020.[54] On March 3, 2020, The Plain Dealer announce that it would lay off 22 more journalists.[55] Their departures were delayed by two weeks, however, because of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to what was described as "a farewell blitz of vital reporting" on that topic by the soon-to-depart staff.[32] On April 6, 2020, the Plain Dealer's editor announced that ten of its fourteen remaining reporters would be assigned to cover Ohio counties outside of Cleveland, rather than Cuyahoga County.[27][56] Those ten asked to be laid off instead, and on April 10, 2020, they were.[28][57] This left the Plain Dealer with a staff of four union journalists: investigative journalist John Caniglia, travel editor Susan Glaser, art critic Steven Litt, and sports columnist Terry Pluto.[57][58] These layoffs were the culmination of a drop over 20 years in membership in the United States' first News Guild (Local 1 of that union) from 340 members to four.[28] Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the laid off journalists were permitted to retain health insurance through February 2021 in exchange for signing a non-disparagement letter.[59]

On May 12, 2020, it was announced that the final four union journalists would be laid off and offered positions in the non-union Cleveland.com newsroom. Under an agreement with the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild, the guild would be barred from participating in union organizing activities in the Cleveland.com newsroom for one year.[60] The same day, after three months of serving as Plain Dealer editor and overseeing this period of layoffs, Tim Warsinskey announced that he would be starting in a new role as Senior Editor for Advance Local, the parent company of Cleveland.com, on June 1, 2020.[61]

Editors (Editors-in-Chief)

Awards and honors

Aftermath, the 1953 Pulitzer-prizewinning editorial cartoon by Edward D. Kuekes

Pricing, distribution, circulation

The daily paper costs $2 and the Sunday/Thanksgiving Day final is $3 at newsstands/newsracks. The full subscription weekly price is $4.65. These prices only apply to The Plain Dealer's home delivery area, which are the Northeast Ohio counties of Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, Portage, Erie, Ottawa, Summit, Ashtabula, Medina and Lorain. The Plain Dealer is available all over the state at select newsstands, including in the state capital, Columbus, and anywhere in the US or world via US mail service, in which prices are higher. The newspaper reported daily readership of 543,110 and Sunday readership of 858,376 as of October, 2013.[3]

Effective August 5, 2013, home delivery was reduced to four days a week; a "premium" (full) edition on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, and a bonus version on Saturday.[88] Subscribers to the three premium editions have access to a digital version seven days a week, which is an exact replica of the morning's paper.[89] A print edition is still available daily at stores, newsracks and newsstands.[89] Circulation and print ad revenue have since continued to decline with marginal gains in digital ad revenue.[90]

Bureaux

The Plain Dealer formerly operated a variety of news bureaux. By the middle of 2014, both the state capital bureau in Columbus and the Washington bureau were shifted to the Northeast Ohio Media Group, as shown by the affiliations of their bureau chiefs. [91][92]

Advance Ohio/Northeast Ohio Media Group

The Plain Dealer is the major news contributor to Cleveland.com, the regional news, event and communication portal run by Advance Digital via Advance Ohio (formerly known as the Northeast Ohio Media Group). The paper does not operate its own editorial website. Advance Ohio runs a separate website for the business side of the newspaper, including advertising. Cleveland.com also features news from the Sun Newspapers, which are a group of smaller, weekly, more suburban-oriented newspapers in the Greater Cleveland metro area also owned by Advance Publications. The formation of NEOMG was dubbed a "transparent union-busting schism scheme" by Cleveland Scene Magazine.[93][94] The Plain Dealer News Guild itself has called NEOMG's formation as evidence of Advance's involvement in "union-busting" and repeated the claim in response to subsequent layoffs.[95]

The quality of the site (as well as other Advance Internet sites) has been criticized by the staff, newsroom staff and locals.[96]

Nearly one third of the newsroom staff was eliminated through layoffs and voluntary resignations in July 2013. The Plain Dealer's corporate owner, New York-based Advance Publications Inc., a private company run by the heirs of S.I. Newhouse, was implementing a strategy to cut staff and publication schedules in order to focus more on online news delivery. Previously, in December 2012, under an agreement with the Newspaper Guild, nearly two dozen union newsroom staff voluntarily accepted severance packages.[33] The July round of layoffs led to accusations by the Guild that management had misled the union by cutting more employees than had been agreed upon.[34]

On August 5, 2013, the Northeast Ohio Media Group launched and The Plain Dealer Publishing Company was formed. Northeast Ohio Media Group operates Cleveland.com and Sun Newspapers (also known as the Sun News suburban papers). It is responsible for all multimedia ad sales and marketing for The Plain Dealer, Sun News and Cleveland.com. It also provides content to The Plain Dealer, Cleveland.com and Sun News. The Plain Dealer Publishing Company provides content and publishes in print seven days a week. However, the company announced in 2013 that it would cut back home delivery in light of declining revenue.[35] The company also provides production, distribution, finance, information technology, accounting and other support services for the Plain Dealer Publishing Co. and Northeast Ohio Media Group.

In January 2016, NEOMG was renamed "Advance Ohio"[36][37][38] several weeks following a major reorganization of the newsroom that included layoffs.[39]

In February 2017, Advance Ohio named Chris Quinn editor and publisher.[40] Quinn previously served as vice president of content at NEOMG[41] and was metro editor at The Plain Dealer prior to that.

Cleveland.com criticism and controversies

Removal of debate video

In October 2014, the Northeast Ohio Media Group hosted the three Ohio candidates for governor in what would be their only joint appearance. The debate was held before the NEOMG's editorial board (which also serves as the editorial board of The Plain Dealer) and NEOMG reporters. Incumbent Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, largely ignored his main rival, Democrat Ed FitzGerald. Kasich refused to admit he could hear the questions of FitzGerald, who was sitting next to him, and insisted that a reporter repeat them.[97]

During the debate, a video camera was positioned eight feet in front of the candidates. The resulting video was posted on Cleveland.com. A few days later, however, it was removed.[98] When other sites posted copies of the now-deleted video, the NEOMG sent letters threatening legal action. TechDirt reported that the owner of the Cleveland Plain Dealer had demanded that the unflattering video be taken down.[99] The NEOMG's actions were covered by other media organizations[100][101] and it was criticized by media observers. Chris Quinn, the NEOMG vice president who sent the letters, declined all requests for comment.[102][103]

At 7 a.m. on the day after the election, which Kasich--endorsed by the NEOMG--won easily, the news organization posted online an explanation of events written by its reader representative. The column cited this as Quinn's explanation:

Shortly after the video was posted, the Kasich campaign contacted him and said it had not been aware a video would be posted online. Quinn eventually decided that his failure to explicitly explain the presence of a video camera was unfair. Further, "I thought that if I stated my reasons, the obvious next step would be people going to the candidates and asking them if they had any objection to putting the video back up," Quinn is quoted as saying. "That would mean my error could put people into an uncomfortable situation."[104][105]

The explanation left at least some critics unsatisfied.[106][107]

Tamir Rice coverage

As part of NEOMG's coverage of the 2014 shooting of Tamir Rice[108] by Cleveland Police, NEOMG published a stories explaining that Rice's parents had criminal backgrounds.[109][110] NEOMG Vice President of Content Chris Quinn attempted to justify reporting on the criminal backgrounds of Rice's parents in a follow-up piece,[111] pointing out that Rice was playing with a toy gun that officers mistook for a real one at the time of the shooting. As a result, Quinn noted, many people asserted that the shooting was justified.

"One of the questions these people raise is why a 12-year-old was walking about in a public place, randomly aiming what looks like a real gun in various directions, to the point where a witness called 9-1-1 in fear," Quinn wrote[111] in a piece defending his organization's reporting on the incident.

Quinn went on to postulate that "One way to stop police from killing any more 12-year-olds might be to understand the forces that lead children to undertake behavior that could put them in the sights of police guns." Cleveland Scene Magazine compared Quinn's explanation to "digging himself a hole the exact width and depth of a coffin"[112] in a piece asserting that the narrative regarding Rice's parents' criminal histories "is absent any context whatsoever."

NEOMG's handling of the situation was condemned on a national scale by the Huffington Post,[113] as well as internally by Plain Dealer staffers.[114]

PD criticism and controversies

Political leanings

In the presidential election of 1864, the paper was strongly opposed to the reelection of Abraham Lincoln. An editorial dated 5 November, asked rhetorically, "Do you want four more years of war? Vote for Lincoln. Do you want the Constitution destroyed? Vote for Lincoln. ... Do you want the degraded Negros made your social and political equals? Vote for Lincoln."[115]

The Plain Dealer has been criticized in the past by liberal columnists for staking out generally conservative positions on its editorial page, despite serving a predominantly Democratic readership base. In 2004, the editorial board voted to endorse Democratic US Senator John Kerry; after publisher Alex Machaskee overruled it, ordering the board to write an endorsement of Republican George W. Bush, editorial page editor Brent Larkin persuaded Machaskee to withhold any endorsement.[116] The news coverage is generally more neutral, with national and international news often culled from wire services, including the New York Times.

The paper had been criticized as being too soft in its coverage of Senator George Voinovich from Ohio and, in the 2004 election cycle for the U.S. Senate, not providing fair coverage, if any, to Voinovich's opponent, State Sen. Eric Fingerhut, a Democrat.[117]

Publishing concealed weapons permit holder lists

In 2005, the newspaper twice published lists of concealed weapon permit holders from the five counties around Cleveland. Editor Doug Clifton defended the paper's decision, sparking a feud with a pro-carry lobbyist group. State Senator Steve Austria called it abuse of the media access privilege, saying publishing these names would threaten the safety of the men and women who obtain these permits. An Ohio gun rights group then published Clifton's home address and phone number.[118]

"Held stories" controversy

The Plain Dealer made national headlines in summer 2005, when editor Douglas Clifton announced that the newspaper was withholding two stories "of profound importance" after Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine were ordered to reveal confidential sources who had provided information on Valerie Plame, Joseph Wilson's wife, being a CIA operative. Wilson was a prominent critic of the administration. The decision to compel the reporters to reveal sources was seen in the news media as a license to go after reporters and newspapers in the courtroom for not revealing confidential informants. It was considered a violation of the trust between reporter and said informants. Clifton was vilified in the news media as "having no backbone" and he admitted that people could refer to him as "chickenshit". Clifton told the national press that while he and the reporters involved in the story were willing to be jailed for not revealing sources, the legal department of the Plain Dealer Publishing Company was worried that the newspaper itself would be sued and strongly opposed the printing of the stories. "Talking isn't an option and jail is too high a price to pay", Clifton said.[119]

The controversy ended when the Cleveland Scene, an alternative weekly Cleveland newspaper, published a similar story. The Plain Dealer then printed the withheld story. It was a report of a federal corruption probe of former Mayor Michael R. White, which was leaked to the press by an attorney on the case. The second withheld story has yet to be revealed.[120]

Music critic sidelining

On September 17, 2008, Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer's music critic of sixteen years, was told by the paper's editor, Susan Goldberg, that he would no longer be covering performances of the Cleveland Orchestra. Rosenberg had criticized its performances under its conductor Franz Welser-Möst, although his reviews of Welser-Möst as a conductor of operas had been positive. Terrance C. Z. Egger, president and publisher of the paper, was on the orchestra's board.[121]

Welser-Möst had been strongly criticized during his earlier tenure at the London Philharmonic Orchestra, when London critics gave him the nickname "Frankly Worse than Most".[122] In December 2008, Rosenberg sued Cleveland's Musical Arts Association, the newspaper and several members of their staffs, alleging a conspiracy to have him demoted.[123] Rosenberg dropped a number of claims against the paper in 2009.[124] In August 2009, a jury rejected the remaining claims.[125]

Shirley Strickland Saffold

In March 2010, the Plain Dealer reported that about eighty comments had been posted to articles on its web site by an account registered to the email address of Shirley Strickland Saffold, a judge sitting on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.[126] Several of the comments, posted under the pseudonym lawmiss, discussed matters that were or had been before the judge.[126] Although the judge's 23-year-old daughter Sydney Saffold took responsibility for the postings, the paper was able to use a public records request and determine that the exact times and dates of some of the postings corresponded to the times that the corresponding articles were being viewed on the judge's court-issued computer.[126] The revelation led one attorney, who had been criticized in the postings, to request the judge recuse herself from a homicide trial in which he represented the defendant.[127]Ohio Supreme Court Acting Chief Justice Paul E. Pfeifer subsequently removed Saffold from the case.[128]

In April, the judge sued the paper, its editor Susan Goldberg, and affiliated companies for $50 million, claiming violation of its privacy policy.[127] In December 2010, Saffold dropped the suit against the newspaper, and reached settlement with Advance Internet, the Plain Dealer affiliate that ran the newspaper's website.[129] The terms of the settlement were undisclosed, but included a charitable contribution in the name of Saffold's mother.[129]

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Further reading

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