Nov 19, 201209:44 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Newhouses Degrade Cleveland, Harrisburg and Reporting
New Orleans may soon no longer be the largest city in America not to have a locally published daily newspaper. Cleveland may get the new booby prize.
Word is spreading there that the Newhouses, through Steve Newhouse’s Advance.net, are planning a slash-and-burn dazzle-with-digital downgrade for that paper similar to what happened to The Times-Picayune. The New Orleans situation has become an alarming case study throughout the newspaper world, particularly in the bigger cities. In Cleveland, the staff has organized a campaign to try to save their newspaper, including billboards and print ads. Exactly what the Newhouse plan involves remains uncertain, but the Plain Dealer staff members know it will not be good.
There are differences between the Cleveland situation and what happened in New Orleans:
- Locals there have had early indications that some sort of gutting will happen. By contrast, New Orleans was coldcocked and got the news from The New York Times.
- There will be some union issues with the Plain Dealer. There were none in New Orleans.
- There still may be a very slight opening for discussion as opposed to New Orleans where the answer was “No” from the beginning.
According to a report at Cleveland.com, the Plain Dealer’s website:
Steve Newhouse said he would be looking at business trends and industry data, not sentiment.
"I think we need to address the economic and media realities that are facing us," he said. "If we can come up with a plan that supports local journalism and the great work we've already done, that's the best we can hope for."
Hey Cleveland, here’s part of the problem. Steve Newhouse, who dismissed opposition here as “noise,” apparently thinks that citizen resistence, is about “sentiment.” He doesn’t seem to understand that to us who care, our cities' daily newspapers are an essential part of their operation by providing a source for the gathering and dissemination of information. If an ownership group does not know what they provide and serve, then dammit they should sell rather than dilute the product.
For whatever the Newhouses have planned for Cleveland, observers, according to Cleveland.com, are preparing for the worst:
“What's coming is not good," said Harlan Specter, president of the Newspaper Guild. "It may be good for our out-of-town owners, but it benefits no one in Northeast Ohio."
The Guild will begin trumpeting its message with a half-page ad in Sunday's Plain Dealer, asking readers to "Save the Plain Dealer. Don't let Cleveland's daily paper fade away."
Hey Cleveland, some advice: The Newhouses and their local mouthpieces will try to say that the changes are for the better. They are not. Not only is frequency reduced but also the whole process for gathering news is compromised. Look at what just happened to another Newhouse daily, The Patriot-News, out of Harrisburg, Penn., which has also been reduced to three days with the same promises of dazzling with digital.
A friend who works for another newspaper but who knows Patriot staff wrote:
So how bad is it? Newhouse is doing the same thing to the Harrisburg paper. They will publish three times a week and reporters will be posting directly to the web without apparent communication with old fashioned editors, while newly designated "curators" pluck stories they like from the web to throw into whatever edition of the paper comes next. Reporters are now also inexplicably being referred to as "concierges" - as if they are to make readers feel more at home on the website.
Editors and reporters being replaced by “curators” and “concierges!” The national journalistic community needs to know that what is going on with the Newhouses is not just cost-cutting. It is madness.
Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival-Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available atall area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or(504- 895-2266)
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