Thursday, April 4, 2013

Plain Dealer Announces Home Delivery Cuts, New 'Media Group'

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2013 at 10:57 AM

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[UPDATE, 5:14 p.m.] Robert Smith penned a news article about the PD transformation, including a takeaway from the staff meeting in the newsroom today.

He touches on much of the same information from the release this morning, save for the input from top brass.

To wit, here's Editor Debra Adams Simmons' less-than-enthusiastic quote: "I think we're still positioned to do quality work. I think we're in a good place."

And Publisher Terry Egger's trip to the corporate workplace thesaurus: "We have to make sure our eye is on where the puck is going."

And, probably most significantly, newly appointed Plain Dealer Publishing Co. General Manager Virginia Wang's reference to readership: "It's all for meeting the needs of readers. The readers have more ways of getting information. I think this is our chance to make it right."

Any and all of the above remains to be seen as The Northeast Ohio Media Group looks toward the "end of summer" - that vague time frame during which these changes are set to take place.


***

With the grist of the rumor mill finally coagulating into a rather milquetoast press release this morning, Plain Dealer management announced several changes for the paper's future:

a) Home delivery will be cut to three days each week. Sunday will be one of them. The paper, however, will continue to be printed everyday. It will be available at "thousands of outlets" across the region (just not anywhere near your doorstep).

b) The Northeast Ohio Media Group is being formed to usher in the digital renaissance playing out at cleveland.com. Andrea Hogben, senior vice president of sales and marketing at The Plain Dealer, will serve as president of the group.

c) Staff cuts were hinted at in the news release, but nothing concrete was announced. Last December, an agreement was reached that staunches the blood-letting at about one-third of the newsroom. If past experiences with Advance's small- and mid-sized market choke-holds is any indication, positions will open up at Cleveland.com, and Plain Dealer employees will be encouraged to apply.

According to sources, staff members were not told of the news prior to the release being published on the home page of Cleveland.com. Others are on vacation this week, portending brutal surprises when their social media accounts blow up today. Columnist Mark Naymik also tweeted out similar information:


In essence, the news comes off as a bit of a slap in the face of loyal readers.

To illustrate, the users who siphon off content from Cleveland.com for free will see little to no change in their reading habits. (Staff cuts will likely cause a setback in news coverage, but it's unclear when and how that will go down). But daily subscribers will see their morning paper evaporate on the majority of mornings each week.

Sussing out the opinion of the customers, arguably one of many jobs for Terry Egger et. al., reveals a concern for e-edition costs and practicality, as well as journalistic quality. Cleveland.com commenters aren't known as the most well spoken crowd in town, but their reactions to the news release highlight the steadily brewing backlash that's become so visible in this city.

Here are a few voices:

5437: "The PD will struggle with this decision for a long time. Somewhere out there, possibly a current PD employee, there's a person who will be creative, step up and start a business filling the news void in this region of the country."

flueger: "'quality journalism' is why I ditched the PD subscription a long time ago. At least cleveland.com is free and serves up some entertainment value."

gadgetking2010: "on top of hurting seniors without computer access, this will also hurt the people that deliver the paper daily."

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