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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Readers React to Readers' Reaction to NEOMG's Posting about Armond Budish's Reaction to Boston Writer's Column About Cleveland.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 5:16 PM

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The Boston Globe's Dan Shaugnessy, in a sports column Tuesday morning, led with his take on (what he deemed) an inappropriate victory celebration at the Q Sunday evening. The Cavaliers had just beaten the Boston Celtics in game one of round one of the NBA playoffs, and confetti descended from the rafters. 

"It seemed over the top," Shaughnessy observed, "a little needy."

He went on to recite a string of cliches regarding Cleveland's economic and pro-sports woes, cliches that would've seemed hackneyed and impotent 10 years ago, but seem especially tuneless now, in the wake of Cleveland's "resurgence."

That resurgence, though in many respects a reality, has been promoted and parroted by the local corporate marketing machine — #ThisisCle! — and, in due course, by the national press, which has seen fit to install Cleveland on any number of touristic and/or culinary hot lists.

But Clevelanders don't like to be maligned (or, frankly, even the whiff of malignity). Social media erupted this morning in outrage over Shaugnessy's column. (The NEOMG faithfully chronicled it all). 

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, who in fact cited a Globe travel piece in his State of the County Address last week, descended to Shaughnessy's inanity by rebuking him.

"Just down the way from Flannery's Pub and Horseshoe Casino," wrote Budish, mentioning establishments that Shaughnessy had disparaged by name, "is an entertainment district we call E. 4th."

Flannery's is of course also on E. 4th, but the NEOMG's Dan Labbe, in his celebration of Budish's rebuke, casually paraphrased our County Executive's remarks to disguise the oversight.

"You can visit one of dozens of restaurants, including those run by world renowned chefs like Michael Symon and Jonathon Sawyer," (sic) Budish continued. "If you took a little bit longer of a walk, you'd see that downtown boosts thousands of residents and an occupancy rate of nearly 98%. (sic) It seems we can't build downtown apartments fast enough for all the folks clamoring to live here! National publications have certainly taken notice. Maybe you missed the articles..."

Maybe indeed. And Budish's impulse to defend his constituents' pride is an honorable one. But Shaughnessy can't be blamed for missing the article in his own publication, a March 21, 2015 travel piece — "Cleveland Rocks! City Makes a Comeback" — celebrating Cleveland as a tourist destination. That article, Budish and others may be alarmed to learn, has been taken down.  

"A recent travel story about Cleveland, Ohio, has been removed because the reporting practices did not meet Globe standards," the website says. 

When asked to elaborate, Boston Globe Travel Editor Christine Morris said that the freelancer whom they'd contracted failed to disclose that her excursion to Cleveland was a press trip, in violation of the Globe's ethics policies. 

"We don't accept freebies — or at least we're not supposed to," Morris wrote in an email to Scene. "At some point I hope to run a legitimate story about your fine city." 

The implication, for those less versed in journalism ethics, is that when you've got an organization like Destination Cleveland paying your way and showing you a good time, it's very difficult for a reporter not to write a glowing piece of leisure-tourism journalism. 

Jackie Spencer, who works in the media department at Destination Cleveland, told Scene by phone that press trips are actually an industry standard. Just last week, she said, they hosted a freelancer from Forbes who'd said he'd been taking press trips for 20 years.

Spencer said that they hosted 90 writers in 2013, both in concert with specific campaigns — things like the Rock Hall induction ceremony last weekend or the JetBlue unveiling next weekend — and in response to individual media requests. 

"Our goal is to target national writers," Spencer said, "tier one publications like USA Today." 

A spokesperson for the Society of American Travel Writers wasn't immediately available for comment regarding their standards, but Spencer said that Destination Cleveland hosted 30 members of the professional organization last year.  

Even though Cleveland leaders have long had a difficult time making distinctions between journalism and marketing, they'd be wise — especially as the Republican National Convention looms — to sort the news from the advertising, lest the national press catch their mistake and ruin the narrative they've been so careful to change.    


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