April 4, 2013

The Plain Dealer | Save The Plain Dealer | Cleveland Magazine

The Cleveland Plain Dealer will deliver papers only three times per week, but it will print every day, the paper announced Thursday. The change will come this summer.

The company will also reorganize as the Northeast Ohio Media Group, which will handle “advertising sales and marketing for The Plain Dealer, Cleveland.com and Sun newspapers,” the announcement says. “And, Northeast Ohio Media Group will provide content for all print and digital products.”

Plain Dealer science writer John Mangels described the changes as “bittersweet” in a phone call with Poynter. “It’s better than what we had expected,” he said. In a newsroom meeting announcing the changes, Mangels said, management said planned layoffs would be delayed until late summer.

Plain Dealer staffers launched a campaign this past November they hoped woud ward off a move to three-day-a-week printing, which the paper’s owner, Advance, has instituted at its papers in Alabama, New Orleans and Harrisburg, Pa.

“I think we and the thousands of people who supported the campaign can claim some credit,” Mangels said. “I’m glad Advance listened to the campaign’s message.”

We hear that PD call-center personnel have been told to expect long hours and a high volume of subscriber calls soon,” a post on Save the Plain Dealer’s Facebook page Wednesday night said.

Also in November, Plain Dealer Editor Debra Adams Simmons and Publisher Terry Egger published a front-page letter to readers saying they foresaw a “significant reset of our business,” and that “We do not have a specific plan, timeline or structure for Cleveland. But we will — very soon.”

The Plain Dealer told the Guild there in December it intended to lay off 58 people. A subsequent deal between the Guild and the paper limited future layoffs and raised wages for those who remained. The Plain Dealer has Advance’s only unionized newsroom.

The company’s plans for print frequency were not subject to negotiation, Guild chair Harlan Spector told Poynter in December.

Last August Advance.net Chairman Steven Newhouse told me “We’re looking at every market and trying to figure out what the right model is. We have local teams doing it because the conditions are different in different markets, but our goal everywhere is to come up with a formula where we can see a long-term future.”

Thursday afternoon the Save The Plain Dealer campaign issued a statement saying the reduced delivery “will prevent some, particularly the elderly, from having access to the paper.”

We also are saddened that the company intends to go forward with plans to let go more than one-third of The Plain Dealer’s newsroom staff. That will happen sometime later this summer, we learned today, rather than on May 1, which originally was the target date. Losing dozens of experienced, talented journalists inevitably will reduce the news coverage that Greater Clevelanders rely on.

We continue to believe that there are less-disruptive methods the paper’s owner and management could have undertaken as they shift to the digital delivery of news. We intend to keep the Save The Plain Dealer campaign active, and to serve as an ongoing watchdog for quality journalism in Northeast Ohio. To all of you who have written, emailed, called and attended meetings to show your support, we are profoundly grateful, and we’ll keep working on your behalf.

Correction: This post originally said the Syracuse Post-Standard had reduced print frequency to three days per week. The Post-Standard is still printed seven days per week and is home-delivered on three days.

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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