Advance Local, the parent company that owns both Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, is hiring a lead reporter to cover the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals, a team that reached the Super Bowl last year and features a beloved young quarterback with Ohio roots, but also happens to play on the opposite side of the state.
Per the job description posted last week
, the reporting position would be a part of three-person team and would be expected to "live and breathe" Bengals news and analysis.
"The Sports Reporter will develop sources, break news and provide in-depth analysis, as a statewide expert and discussion leader on high-value topics," the posting reads. "The reporter will meet audience demand for immediacy, depth, and engagement. This reporter will explain the 'why' of what is happening versus just the 'what' is happening. We want someone who will look beyond the gamers and tell the stories of the Bengals, the team’s ownership/management, and the fan base in creative ways."
Chris Quinn, editor of Cleveland.com and the Plain Dealer, told Scene via email that it was a bit early to discuss plans for the Bengals job when we inquired what the posting betokened. (Was Cleveland.com now more deliberately attempting to grow into a statewide newsroom, we wondered? Or should the posting be understood as an experiment driven by the popularity of NFL coverage on the website? Or perhaps something else?)
"Suffice to say we are expanding our sports coverage team by four positions and are seeking candidates," Quinn wrote. "Our newsroom will end this year bigger than the start of the year for the second year in a row."
The recent churn at Cleveland.com has indeed been notable, with new bylines including Lucas Daprile (covering local ARPA spending), Zack Smith (data), Gretchen Cuda Kroen (health), and John Tucker (crime and cops).
Recent departures include real estate reporter Eric Heisig and chief politics writer Seth Richardson. (Quinn will likely be hunting for a Richardson replacement on the double.)
But neither the Advance Local execs nor Cleveland.com's editorial leadership can reasonably believe (or pretend) that a full-time Cincinnati Bengals reporter is aimed at a Cleveland audience, ostensibly the audience that the daily newspaper should be prioritizing. In fact, it seems designed exclusively to chase available clicks in Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky.
Quinn has talked before about what he perceives as Cleveland.com's statewide influence. The daily news and analysis podcast which used to be called "This Week in the CLE" is now called "Today in Ohio" to reflect its ambitions,
It's certainly true, by the way, that the statehouse team in Columbus produced agenda-setting work on the HB6 scandal during the pandemic and continues to provide solid accountability reporting and regular breaking news. But it's also true that investing in reporters in Columbus, who cover issues that directly affect Northeast Ohio readers, is quite a different matter than investing in a beat reporter to cover a pro team in another market entirely. Will Cleveland.com be pursuing reporters to cover the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets? MLS's Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati? The NBA's Detroit Pistons?
Barring a massive newsroom expansion, we certainly hope not! The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com are Cleveland news products, or they oughtta be. As such, there are any number of local news beats — *cough* education — that require more urgent attention than pro sports teams in cities other than the one where the paper operates.
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