Sam Allard / Scene
The Plain Dealer Plaza at 1801 Superior Avenue
New Plain Dealer
editor Tim Warsinskey, days after taking the reins from former editor George Rodrigue, announced in a Monday column
that on March 23rd, the paper will lay off 22 newsroom employees, 18 of whom are represented by the local News Guild.
This round of layoffs follows cuts last year in which the jobs of layout editors and designers were outsourced and 12 newsroom positions were eliminated
shortly thereafter. The current layoffs will further diminish the PD's unionized workforce and calls into question what a "daily" print newspaper in Cleveland will even consist of.
The current weekday editions are already composed mostly of
Associated Press stories, wire reports and cleveland.com capsules. The skeleton crew who will still be employed by the PD by the end of the month might simply assemble content produced elsewhere for local consumption. Some who are laid off may be offered jobs in the non-union cleveland.com newsrooms. More coordination with cleveland.com will absolutely be required.
"The reason [for the layoffs] is strictly financial," wrote Warsinskey, a refrain that Northeast Ohioans have heard many times in the past decade, as Advance has orchestrated its union-busting, ahem digital,
strategy. "The industry revenue model has changed and print newspapers have struggled to overcome deep losses in subscriptions and advertising."
Warsinskey spun the layoffs as a way for the paper to "amplify" its existing resources. He said that within two weeks, he would announce how remaining reporters would be allocated. But how many reporters will be left? A dozen? Eight? Three?
It's hard to say. The Guild itself was not notified of the layoffs ahead of time. They were alerted Monday afternoon, along with the public, when they were sent Warsinskey's column. The Chair of the Guild, health reporter Ginger Christ, tweeted that the newsroom was still processing the news. Several of the Guild's employees worried that this might happen when, last year, a "no layoff" clause expired
and was not renewed during bargaining.
Despite the grim announcement, Warsinskey encouraged readers not to fret about a potential "news desert" in town. To the contrary, he suggested that the market was doing "OK" relative to other midsize cities and that the Plain Dealer and cleveland.com had between them 77 journalists covering stories in Northeast Ohio."
It's needless to note that the cleveland.com and Plain Dealer
newsrooms have long been working at odds, not as complementary outfits. The 77 who remain, the vast majority of whom write for cleveland.com and many of whom produce web or social media content not optimized for print, represent a dramatic decline from the PD's heydey in the late 90s, when roughly 340 journalists covered the news.
In a note to local reporters and editors with a link to his column, Warsinskey said that he would not be participating in any interviews on the subject during the next two weeks.
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