Is there a DNR order? Is there a hospice for a newspaper? After suffering from years of benign neglect, the (formerly Cleveland) Plain Dealer is patiently waiting to die.
The real changes kick in later this summer. In an effort to make its death more painful, Advance Publications, the absentee owner of the Plain Dealer, has decided to continue to print the paper daily. They just won’t deliver it four out of seven days. Three days a week the paper will be at your door. The rest of the time it will be hide and seek. Three days a week your ads will be seen. Four days a week the paper will shrink to the size of a seventh grader’s book report.
You might think that this would be enough. You might think that making the paper harder to access is the business equivalent of a pillow held firmly to your sleeping face. Advance Publications isn’t taking any chances. If relevance is the Plain Dealer’s challenge, terminating fifty-three people from the newsroom this summer only hastens the paper’s demise.
Newspapers can not be duplicated online. There are wonderful, successful newspapers. There are wonderful online publications. They are not one in the same. I read the daily paper of wherever I am everyday. Most days that is Cleveland and the Plain Dealer. But I travel for both business and pleasure and I have the opportunity of reading ten to twelve different papers each year. There is no greater window to a community than its daily paper. I also get the New York Times delivered to my email everyday. Great national and international news, but as a connection to the City, it might as well be the English version of LeMonde.
Connection. Newspapers, tangible, deliverable, old fashioned newspapers, provide a clearer picture of the city. This truth was brought home to me yesterday.
I was sorting the Sunday Plain Dealer. I scanned the front page. No mention of Korea or bombs. Good. I then grabbed the Metro section for the obituaries and the Forum section. I normally hunt for the comics and the Business section, too, before I start to read. While looking for the Business section I saw the front page of the employment portion of the classifieds. There, big and bold, was a picture of my client Randy DeMuesy and an article about his profession, copywriting.
I don’t read the want ads. But I got to read an interesting article about someone I know. In fact, this isn’t the first time one of my clients has been featured in this space. I’ve even read Terri Mrosko’s pieces about people I don’t know. She’s a good writer and these are interesting columns.
Bump into that online. You can’t. Go to Cleveland.com and yes, if you knew that there was an article about Randy, you might find it. But there aren’t any pleasant surprises. You search for specific things online. You bump into nothing.
Getting your information online is much like watching cable news and expecting to get the whole story. The broadcast channels are forced to attempt balanced reporting. Sometimes they succeed. Sometimes they fail. Balance isn’t even a goal on most cable outlets. If I lean politically in a certain direction I can tune into FOX. They will tell me what I already suspect and confirm what I think is true. If I lean in the other direction, MSNBC is waiting for me. No surprises. The familiar guests are outraged on cue. The conclusions are perfectly choreographed.
The Plain Dealer is not G-d’s gift to journalism, but it is more than adequate and there are moments of greatness. The writing is consistently good, though we have lost some of their best due to budgets and politics. Page 2 of yesterday’s paper had Regina Brett utilizing all of her skills to justify this new change. I wonder when she drew the short straw that got her this assignment. On the same page was Grant Segall’s much more interesting interview of Lisa Nielson, a teacher in Case Western Reserve’s SAGE’s program. I would link the interview for you but as is so often the case with Cleveland.com, it is lost in their system!
I would never have seen that Nielson interview online. Or Randy’s. Or any of the other articles that make the Plain Dealer worth reading. And it is worth reading, or visiting, before it dies.