Assistant Managing Editor Michael Tribble spent several days on damage control in the comments section after the initial announcement. He concluded:
Through this process, we must find a business model that allows us to do the journalism we want to do and that readers want while also being economically viable.
“Do the journalism we want to do” is a key to their continued downward spiral. In 2010, after it was revealed that the Plain Dealer spent years glossing over the massive political corruption in the Democratic Cuyahoga County government — by corrupt candidates the paper endorsed year after year after year — the editors embarked on a surprisingly honest, cathartic navel-gazing journey after a public outcry. They admitted their failures:
It is true that reporters don’t have subpoena power, but what kept the paper from getting to the story ahead of the FBI was sins of journalistic omission — the failure to follow up leads, to cultivate sources and mobilize resources, to report aggressively on matters of keen public interest rather than accepting business as usual. In some respects, that is even more disturbing than the false charges that the newspaper was in bed with the people it covers ["false" charges the paper admitted were true in the article] [emphasis added].
Unfortunately, what the article called the Plain Dealer’s ”somnolent watchdogs” failed to learn the lessons from their “sins of journalistic omission” and continue to pursue, as the editor explained, “the journalism we want to do” instead of “matters of keen public interest.”
In a rant by Plain Dealer journalists on their Save the Plain Dealer Facebook page, the employees attacked the “billionaire owners”:
To the executives of Advance Publications and the management of The Plain Dealer and its affiliate, cleveland.com: If you continue to under-estimate your readership’s intelligence and desire for substantive news, you will fail. Stop trying to fool them that less is more. Provide the quality journalism that this region needs and deserves. If you don’t, someone else will.
They would do well to take their own advice.
The paper’s desperate attempt to stir up racial tensions by wrongly labeling George Zimmerman a “murderer” is just the most recent example of their journalistic failures. Readers understand the difference between journalism and political advocacy, and now that they have a wealth of media choices at their fingertips, they vote with their subscriptions. The Plain Dealer doesn’t seem concerned about fleeing readers as they blithely continue down their tried and true path and as their paper continues on life support.
image courtesy shutterstock / Hung Chung Chih