Outraged readers aren't the only ones appalled by the tabloidization of The Plain Dealer, which has bannered recent global and national tragedies with screaming headlines like "Bloodbath" and "Bodies, Bodies, Bodies." A petition posted in the PD newsroom and signed by about 75 staffers last week reads: "Today's headline on the tragedy in Colorado is an embarrassment to all serious journalists. Sadly, these tabloid headlines have become a regular feature on our front page. We report on tragedies as part of our obligation to inform our readers. But in doing so, we should not exploit the victims." The headlines are reportedly the work of Jim Fabris, a graphics ghoul hired by departing editor David Hall. Fabris was one of the few employees singled out for meritorious service by Hall in his farewell speech--an opinion not shared by reporters who find heads like "Yellow Coffins of Death" (atop a story about school bus safety) better suited for naming punk rock bands.
The "Bloodbath" in Colorado reduced the death of former Mayor Ralph Perk to a teaser in the bottom corner of 1A--a marked contrast to his immediate predecessor, Carl Stokes, whose death in April 1996 dominated the PD front page and filled nearly three and a half pages inside. Stokes was by any measure a more historically significant figure than Perk. But there was plenty of news the day he died--the Unabomber was captured and Commerce Secretary Ron Brown had gone down in a plane crash. Perk lost out not to history, but a taste for tawdriness. He received a less noticeable slight Sunday at City Hall, where the administration would allow only about half the speakers the Perk family wanted at the rotunda memorial service.
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