An August 3rd editorial in the the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, “Notes of a native son, as President Obama addresses race,” referred to the murder of Trayvon Martin:
Obama wanted to explain to those Americans who have never been followed, suspected or singled out because of the color of their skins [sic] why those who have took [sic] the murder of an unarmed 17-year-old black high school student so personally and viscerally, [sic] The president was not criticizing the jury. “That’s how our system works,” he said.
[Plain Dealer Editor's note: This editorial was updated Aug. 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm to correct a grammatical error in the fourth paragraph.]
Sloppy editing and grammar crimes aside, the fact that the editors chose to use the word murder in reference to the charges for which George Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury of his peers demonstrates more than a lack of journalistic responsibility in their apparent quest to continue to stir up racial tensions in the community. It also exemplifies the reason the Plain Dealer and other so-called legacy media outlets barely have a pulse in the year 2013.
Unbalanced reporting is nothing new for the Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper. It has been long known for its partisan hackery, which reached a fevered pitch during the 2012 election. So it’s no surprise that the paper is in its death throes.
In addition to the layoffs, the paper ended its daily home delivery, switching to a 3-day delivery instead. The print version will now only be available at newsstands 7 days per week.
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