For months now, the staff at The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio, has been waiting for the Newhouses to do their damage. They knew there would be staff cutbacks, and there were – once the guild contracts expired earlier this year, but the greatest fear was that the owners would treat the venerable newspaper as badly as they treated The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. They didn’t.
Last week Steve Newhouse’s Advanced Media announced that the paper would still be published everyday although home delivery world be reduced to only three days a week. One of the three days of publication will be Sunday. The other two days have not been determined. (Hint: Monday and Saturday seem to be days when people miss their daily the most– – or maybe that is just me.) In the press coverage, an Advance executive assured that there were thousands of outlets around Northeast Ohio where the daily could be purchased.
Why did Cleveland get to keep a daily and New Orleans did not? There was active opposition from newspaper staff and citizens there. Some of those leaders are taking a victory lap – albeit a partial victory. For example, an article by reporter Christine Haughney of The New York Times talked about John Mangels, a science writer for The Plain Dealer:
Mr. Mangels helped organize a campaign late last year that called on readers to join the effort to preserve Cleveland’s daily newspaper. Some Plain Dealer employees were determined to avoid the fate of other Advance papers like The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, The Press-Register of Mobile, Ala., and The Huntsville Times in Alabama…
Mr. Mangels said he was both relieved and disappointed by the news. It was still unclear whether he would keep his job.
“We were expecting that the paper would be reduced to three days a week,” he said in an interview. “We’re glad that the paper listened to the campaign and the voices of Cleveland to keep the paper a daily, to keep it publishing seven days a week. But that victory is tempered by a lot of things. The cuts in home delivery and the layoffs are going to reduce our ability to cover news in Cleveland.”
While the effort of the folks in Cleveland to save their daily is commendable, New Orleanians were quite vocal, too. The Cleveland protesters did get some union money and a grant to pay for advertising, but they couldn’t possibly surpass the New Orleans effort for passion and anger.
Granted Cleveland is a bigger city than New Orleans, but our town is a world city on the rebound with a huge tourist economy. Historically it has always been one of the busiest news towns in the nation.
New Orleans may have gotten the shaft and Cleveland spared simply because our town came first. The protesters down here may not have saved their daily but they got a message across and that ultimately may have helped The Plain Dealer.
This story is far from over. New Orleans might be adding another chapter soon: What happens when a local businessman buys a neighboring daily newspaper, infuses it with cash and creates what is in effect a new daily newspaper? People in New Orleans are angry. If given a chance to support something local that shows respect for our community, they will be supportive. We’ll call that plain dealing.
Why We Need a Saturday Paper – An Example
Last Saturday provided a perfect example of why a newspaper publisher should consider it a civic responsibility to publish daily. There were elections throughout the region. All of them were low profile contests – minor judgeships, small town mayor and council seats. Because they were low profile they did not get much media attention nor was there money for the campaigns to generate their own publicity. Many people in the region were probably wondering what all the electioneering was all about as they drove around town Saturday. Had there been a Saturday newspaper they would have known. The kind of people who vote in low profile elections are chronic voters and chronic voters read newspapers. A Saturday newspaper could have helped educate people about the elections. Newspapers can be a tool of democracy.
Sure the T-P had mention of the election on their website and in their Friday edition, but Saturday is the day that counts the most. By contrast, those who get the New Orleans edition of The Advocate did get the coverage they needed. Across the bottom of the front page was a comprehensive story headlined: JUDGE RACES, TWO MAYORAL CONTESTS DOMINATE N.O. AREA BALLOT.
Congratulations to The Advocate for doing its civic duty. As for the Newhouses, once more they have failed us.