December 11, 2012

The New Republic | Poynter
Cleveland Plain Dealer Guild members today ratified a proposed six-year contract that raises salaries by 8 percent and protects employees from staff cuts through early 2019; the raise takes effect after 58 positions are eliminated in 2013, a cut that eliminates about one-third of the newsroom.

The Guild was part of a “Save the Plain Dealer” public awareness campaign to protect the paper from staff cuts and a reduced print schedule, which its owner Advance has implemented or is currently implementing at its publications in Michigan, New Orleans, Alabama, Pennsylvania and New York.

The company has not said whether it is considering cutting back on print days, however there is new language in the agreement that allows content to flow freely between (produced by non-Guild employees) and the printed Plain Dealer. There is also language that allows layoffs if “the Company ceases to publish a print edition of The Plain Dealer on newsprint at least one day a week.” Special editions, inserts and tabs are not considered a print edition.

An email about today’s vote reads, in part, “This agreement does not signal an end to our campaign to keep the paper publishing daily. It also means that we have to continue do what we do best, be a watchdog for the community and make sure they are getting the highest quality of journalism possible no matter who produces it.”

Is this campaign too late? Former Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz emails Alec MacGillis:

The union kid in me has felt for some time that we had to learn how to become activists for journalism. We were so used to reporting the hell out of a story and then assuming everyone would value our hard work, our judgment, our take on things. Some of that was arrogance born of habit, to be sure, but there was a humility in that, too. Fewer hotshots, more team players, producing the kind of journalism that comes about when you don’t spend every day trying to prove that you’re the smartest person in every room. But we should have started promoting the brand years ago. Journalists — certainly Guild members at The Plain Dealer — were discouraged from doing so, but, honestly, we too often turned a withering eye to those who got special attention for their talents. Old story, that one. Newsrooms are tough places.

Like newspapers across the country, The Plain Dealer waited too long to explain to Cleveland readers, and its leaders, why The Plain Dealer mattered. Now, it’s chipping away at what remains. To paraphrase a friend and former colleague, Margie Frazer, when I heard the news about the PD cuts, it was as if someone had stepped on my heart.

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Julie Moos ( has been Director of Poynter Online and Poynter Publications since 2009. Previously, she was Editor of Poynter Online (2007-2009) and Poynter Publications…
Julie Moos

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