Deal or No Deal? 

The new and improved Akron Plain Dealer?

Could the Beacon Journal soon become the Akron Plain Dealer? High-level sources aren't saying, but an article in the Beacon reported that bigwigs from both papers, as well as from Plain Dealer parent-company Advance Publications, met last week behind closed doors.

California-based McClatchy Co. bought the Akron paper's parent company, Knight Ridder Inc., in March, but wants to sell off its papers in stagnant markets.

Union reps at both papers remain in the dark. "We haven't heard anything official," says Beacon rep Stephanie Warsmith. Should a merger go through, Warsmith is concerned about possible consolidations between newsrooms.

High-level sources concede that the Beacon janitor with the enormous head has already agreed to take on Sam Fulwood's responsibilities between cleaning restrooms.

Pulitzer material
If The PD does purchase the Beacon, it will be investing in serious journalism. Take this recent blockbuster:

With three days off after Game 2 of the Cavs-Pistons series, the Beacon, more commonly known as LeBron's Scrapbook, found itself struggling for new ways to fawn over the local hero. So medical writer Elizabeth Suh busted out a front-page story about LeBron's habit of -- gasp! -- biting his nails.

Suh reached some startling conclusions: Apparently, nail-biting isn't really bad for you, but it does look kinda gross.

Dead trees and readers
Trying to stabilize its elderly readership, whose median age now falls in the category of Dead for Six Years, The Plain Dealer has been rapidly expanding its web presence. Over the last year, its partner site, Cleveland.com, has launched online video and audio clips, blogs, and other interactive features to attract young people, who executives say "totally suck, but I guess they're 'the future' or whatever."

But it appears The PD's cutting-edge approach was much like Marty McFly's gutsy 1955 performance of "Johnny B. Good" -- another example of too much too soon. Several online features were recently killed.

A spokeswoman for Advance Publications, which owns both paper and website, refused to comment on the matter, saying only that she thought Punch looked "especially hunky today." But Scott Stephens, the PD's union rep, says the company was concerned about union reporters doing work for the nonunion Cleveland.com.

Disappointingly, Stephens doesn't call Cleveland.com's staff "punk-ass scabs," which would have made for a good quote. In fact, the Newspaper Guild didn't mind its members doing work for the site.

But reporter Mike McIntyre thinks the whole thing is just a ruse to cover up the company's real goal: canceling Laugh Track, the online show in which he interviewed comedians.

"It should have been called Pregnant Pause Track," a sullen McIntyre admits. "You could just hear the air being let out of the room. In the end, this may actually be a service to the internet-watching public, because I was really bad."

D-Jones' bricklayer camp
Want your kid to shoot bricks like the pros? For the low, low price of $265, you can have D-Jones teach 'em!


Come summer, Damon Jones Basketball Camps will be held in Akron, Beachwood, and Pepper Pike. The sales pitch promises that "Damon Jones will be at the camp" and that campers will receive "instruction from current NBA star Damon Jones." This includes learning to shoot like a stonemason and play Jones' patented defense, which was originally pioneered by the French army.

"I'm trying to get back to the basics of basketball for the youths," says Jones. "I'm gonna be very hands-on at these camps."

But something about the brochure indicates that Little Timmy's being primed for the bait-and-switch: "Damon Jones' appearance is subject to change or cancellation without notice," it says.

Just like his minutes.

Fighting back
After this rag ran a story about construction problems at publicly subsidized homes in Central ["Things Fall Apart," May 10], the developer, Rysar Properties, punched back with full-page ads in Scene and the Free Times, detailing the extent of our suckage.

What the ads failed to mention was that Rysar was already scurrying to fix the problems exposed in the article.

The day after the story hit the streets, a Rysar crew paid a surprise visit to Maxine Singleton's East 43rd Street home and began tearing up her porch. Singleton is one of several people who bought homes in the Villages of Central three years ago and now find their yards, driveways, and porches sinking.

"Evidently what we said must have been true," says Singleton. "I ain't no troublemaker. I just want what's owed me."

Unfortunately, crews never finished the job. A week later, Singleton's porch was still a wreck, with no sign of Rysar's return.

Fighting obesity with M&Ms
Last week, America's hottest celebrities -- including Omarosa, Browns cornerback Gary Baxter, and Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child -- gathered at Freeway Lanes in Parma for a bowl-a-thon to stop childhood obesity.

According to their brochures, 9 million American children are overweight -- three times the number who were overweight in 1980. So skinny, good-looking people decided to help the rest of us stop being pigs.

Williams arrived in a child-sized orange halter top, while Omarosa looked model-thin in her ripped Browns T-shirt, strategically cut to reveal her new abs.

"Wow," whispered one bystander. "She's so thin. I wonder how she does it."

"She probably just sticks her fingers down her throat, like the rest of Hollywood," responded a friend, who was pounding a slice of pizza.

But the organizers may need a few lessons on nutrition. At the event to fight obesity, there was more food than attendees. In the center of the room were trays of hamburgers, pizza, brownies, and M&Ms.

"Is there anything low-fat here?" asked Mrs. Punch, who, by the way, is smoking hot in a bikini, if you don't count the stretch marks.

"There's diet Pepsi at the bar," answered a helpful attendee.

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