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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Plain Dealer 'Minister of Culture' Michael Heaton Has Penned His Final Column

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2019 at 1:08 PM

Plain Dealer culture writer Michael Heaton, the region's "Minister of Culture," has penned his final column for the paper. Heaton signed off last week after nearly 1,500 columns — his estimate — and more than 30 years of writing "entertainingly about entertainment."

Heaton joined the Plain Dealer as a rock music writer in the 80s after having worked for the San Francisco Examiner and writing freelance for People Magazine. His father, Chuck Heaton, was a storied sportswriter at the PD for 50 years.

"Between us," Heaton wrote last week, "that's 80-plus years of Heaton bylines in the paper. Feels like the end of an era."

In more ways than one.

The Minister departs during a turbulent time for the daily. Last week, editor George Rodrigue announced that the PD would move forward with a plan to centralize production at an as-yet-unknown facility or facilities operated by Advance Local, the paper's corporate parent.

Nearly half of the PD's unionized workforce will be axed in early 2019 as part of that transition. Some of the copy editors, page designers and headline writers who are slated to lose their jobs will be invited, per Rodrigue, to apply for new, non-union, Cleveland-based positions editing copy. (These position would be part of Advance Local's national "Print Lab," Rodrigue said, a group working at multiple locations nationwide that produces 19 print newspapers.

Heaton's departure further depletes an editorial staff that has been strategically shrunk for the past decade. In addition to his culture columns, Heaton was among the movie reviewers at the paper, who have been covering film by committee since the departure of critic Clint O'Connor in 2015. (While writes about movies quite a bit, criticism has remained under the editorial umbrella of the Guild.)

Among Heaton's 2018 favorites: Bohemian Rhapsody, Widows, Thoroughbreds and VICE.

Heaton said that he would likely continue to write about popular culture, possibly on a new personal blog, and conveyed his gratitude to readers and past editors.

"Spending Fridays together for all these years has meant the world to me," he wrote. "The pleasure has been all mine."

*Correction: An earlier version of this story speculated that Plain Dealer Pub Hub staffers who will lose their jobs would be invited to apply for jobs "on the payroll." That is incorrect. The jobs would be with Advance Local's Print Lab.

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