by The Plain Dealer News Guild
The Plain Dealer newsroom will no longer be covering Cleveland, Cuyahoga County or the state of Ohio.
Editor Tim Warsinskey announced Monday to the 14 remaining staff members that the newsroom would, with a few exceptions, become a bureau covering five outlying counties: Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina and Portage.
The move would bar most of the reporters from covering stories in Cuyahoga and Summit counties, as well as statewide issues, where they have developed expertise and have institutional knowledge.
This latest announcement comes as the newsroom has worked ceaselessly in covering this unprecedented pandemic, putting aside their own personal family and financial situations to cover the news and tell the stories of health care workers and the community.
It would also remove the remaining Arts and Life reporters, including Laura DeMarco and John Petkovic from covering the beats they have covered for decades.
Steven Litt would continue as an arts and architecture critic. Terry Pluto and Phillip Morris would continue as columnists, and Susan Glaser would continue to cover regional travel.
The move would bar the award-winning Plain Dealer photographers who remain, Gus Chan and Lisa DeJong, from photographing Cuyahoga County.
It would also mean that:
Michelle Jarboe, a nationally-respected real estate and development reporter, would no longer be able to cover that beat.
Patrick O’Donnell, an expert on state and local education funding and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, would no longer provide that coverage.
Ginger Christ, who covers the largest hospital systems in the state, would be removed from that beat.
Rachel Dissell and John Caniglia, the paper’s award-winning investigative and enterprise reporters, would no longer have that role.
Greg Burnett, a features writer who also oversees all of the Friday Magazine event listings, would no longer be informing the city of what is going on.
Warsinskey called the move a “company-wide strategy decision.” He did not say which company.
The Plain Dealer, which is owned by Advance Publications, consistently has maintained that The Plain Dealer and Advance Local, are separate companies. Advance Local operates the nonunion Cleveland.com newsroom, which has not announced layoffs.
“The two-newsroom operation was never going to become tenable or permanent,” Warsinskey told staffers.
In effect, he is admitting that this decision is part of a broader move to eliminate The Plain Dealer and its staff altogether and not an attempt to provide meaningful coverage on areas the company has stopped reporting on in any depth for years.
The announcement comes three days after The Plain Dealer laid off 22 people in the newsroom, including 18 Guild-represented journalists and four nonunion managers.
It’s clear that the company doesn’t value the expertise of its veteran reporters and it doesn’t think the community does either.
A move like this is incomprehensible and can only be interpreted as a way to punish people for belonging to a union. The company is choosing to switch reporters who have covered the city and county for decades to new beats and move their well-sourced beats to nonunion reporters at Cleveland.com.
Warsinskey, in a call with remaining reporters, said “I don’t want to end my career by letting down the people I love and respect.”
But he has.
He’s also let down the community, which has come to rely on the trusted voices at The Plain Dealer to provide their expertise.
This decision is a loss for the people of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County who care about in-depth and solutions-based reporting that Plain Dealer reporters have consistently provided in recent years and a win for public officials and others who don’t want their misdeeds uncovered.