On February 2, The Plain Dealer published a story vaguely critical of the local Democratic Party's operations. The gist: While the party still wins elections, it's an organizational mess.
Last week, Chairman Jimmy Dimora sent a letter to precinct committee members, labor leaders, and elected officials blasting The PD's story as "unwarranted," "uncalled for," "vicious," and "mean-spirited." Dimora, it seems, believes The PD is actively conspiring against him.
"Could it be they are tired of Democrats continually gaining office to the detriment of the local Republican Party?" he wrote, veering into grassy knoll territory. "Pitting Democrats against Democrats plays into their plans to weaken us and our influence. In that way, The Plain Dealer can dictate the political landscape in order to get Republicans elected."
Dimora may be on to something. When Punch contacted the story's author, PD reporter Mark Naymik (full disclosure: Naymik once worked for Scene), he refused to admit that he's a Republican stooge. And isn't denial always the first sign of a problem?
Less news, more bonuses
Two years ago, Knight Ridder hacked its workforce by 10 percent. The move vaporized 2,200 jobs, saved the company $100 million, and demolished morale at its 32 daily newspapers, including the Beacon Journal.
In 2002, the budget-slashing paid off -- at least for a few dozen Knight Ridder suits. They collected year-end bonuses worth $10 million as part of a plan to "motivate and reward" execs for boosting shareholder return.
Surprisingly, the windfall has so far failed to motivate or reward the rank-and-file at the nation's second-largest newspaper chain. "People weren't shocked by the news, but they certainly weren't happy," says Beacon scribe Stephanie Warsmith, head of the paper's reporter union.
While KR honchos count their coins, the San Jose company has done little to restore confidence -- or bodies -- to its newsrooms. At the Beacon, where some 35 staffers were flushed in the Great Purge of '01, the budget remains tighter than C.C. Sabathia's pants.
"It's hard to be the paper you were when you've lost that many people," Warsmith says, adding that a hiring freeze is expected to remain in place until at least April.
All talk, no walk
Case Western Reserve President Edward Hundert is receiving gushing press for his initiative to reach out to Cleveland. But like good academics everywhere, he appears better at talking it than he is walking it.
For more than three years, school cafeteria workers have tried to organize under the flag of the hotel and restaurant union. With an average wage of $6.50 an hour, many remain on welfare so their kids will have health insurance. Compare this to student employees at Case, who are guaranteed a minimum wage of $8.25 an hour.
Case says this isn't its problem, since cafeteria workers are technically employed by an outside contractor. Never mind that Case can require anything it wants in a contract. And never mind that the university has a history of anti-labor practices. When it lost one union election, it spent two years fighting the outcome in court. That battle involved just three maintenance workers.
Hundert appears to be carrying on this fine tradition. When the president recently spoke at the City Club, union chief Ken Ilg challenged him from the audience. "He kind of danced around the issue," says Ilg. "I do find it rather ironic that he's being given credit for this whole town-gown relationship. Given a real opportunity to make change, the university, even under Hundert, has refused to get involved in a major way."
Perhaps, but it's a lot easier to talk about making a difference than it is to actually do it. That's just good scholarship.
Genius of the Week
Stanford student Daniel Jung was arrested for bringing a stun gun into a secure area of Hopkins Airport. A family member told The PD that Jung carried the stun gun to deter muggers. That's perfectly understandable. Who wouldn't want a little extra firepower when cruising the mean streets of Jung's hometown -- Westlake?
The next LeBron?
Last week we brought you the tale of Sheila Bronson, the high-flying St. Louis-area 12-year-old who promises to be the first player to jump straight from middle school to the WNBA.
Reaction from the media was swift, particularly in St. Louis, where our sister paper, The Riverfront Times, ran the story. TV geeks called looking for the exclusive. A college sports information director wanted to know where he could see her play. Radio stations lined up to interview author Mike Seely. Even ESPN called.
But all had difficulty getting the SheBron scoop -- namely because she doesn't exist. That's right: We, the nefarious forces of the Irish-Catholic-controlled media, made the whole thing up.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz put a nice spin on the affair, writing that "Seely exposed a larger truth: the preposterous, almost demented, amount of hype of teenage (or even preteen) basketball players in our culture."
We'd like to confess to such noble motives. But it ain't true. After getting beat on the LeBron Poses For Picture With Ref Scandal, we just felt we had to raise the stakes. And what better way to do that than by simply making stuff up?
Action Infographic! Four months after the Free Times closed, but weeks before the feds announced their plan to re-create another alt-weekly in Cleveland, two free papers made their Internet debut. Both plan to start as monthlies and launch print editions in March. A handy comparison guide:
|Name||Urban Dialect||Angle Magazine|
|Thrust||inner cities, politics||arts|
|Fearless leader||Daniel Gray-Kontar||Amy Sparks|
|Formerly known as||Free Times “urban” columnist||Freelance intellectual/columnist|
|Biggest Free Times coup||“Solved” reparations problem||Could make anything sound like free-form poetry|
|Former FTers on staff||five||two|
|Financing||“Investors,” says Kontar||Applying for grants|
|Plans for regionalism||“We want to engage in dialogue with the inner cities in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Dayton, Cincinnati,” Kontar says.||“One of my complaints about Cleveland is that it’s very insular,” says Angle co-founder Dan Tranberg. “Part of our goal is to get a readership in New York and on the West Coast.”|
|Coolest thing||Mudfoot, the Ghetto Communicator
|Website is gorgeous. Sparks’s movie reviews blow The PD’s Connors out of the water.|
|Biggest pretension||Mudfoot, the Ghetto Communicator||Tranberg reviews art show in Paris.|
|Thoughts on Free Times’ closing||“We didn’t give the public much to miss. Nothing really to care about. Outside of an occasional hot-button issue, we were mired in mediocrity, high employee turnover, and inner office turmoil. Geesh, good riddance,” says Clarence Meriwether.||“Born of equal parts frustration and hope, knowledge and grit, Angle rises from the ashes of the Cleveland Free Times and its 10 years of award-winning arts coverage.”|