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Monday, December 21, 2020

National Association of Black Journalists Gives Cleveland.com/PD Annual Thumbs Down Award for Layoffs That Drove Minority Exodus

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2020 at 5:02 PM

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The National Association of Black Journalists today bestowed Cleveland.com/Plain Dealer/Advance Local with one of its annual Thumbs Down Awards.

This was not, naturally, an award they applied for but it is nevertheless one that Editor Chris Quinn and Advance will now own.



The criteria for this dubious distinction:

The Thumbs Down Award is presented annually to an individual or organization for especially insensitive, racist or stereotypical reporting, commentary, photography, or cartoons about the Black community or for engaging in practices at odds with the goals of NABJ. The purpose of the award is to amplify needed change in the industry. NABJ’s Board of Directors and Media Monitoring Committee call on these news organizations to improve their practices immediately.
Cleveland.com/PD notched the award for the mass layoffs and union-busting efforts earlier this year that decimated and humiliated the PD newsroom and, in the process, included almost all of the news organization's minority staff in Cleveland.

The NABJ's official reasoning:

For job cuts and changes which sparked a huge exodus of non-White journalists from their newsrooms. Earlier this year, Advance Local, the company which owns both the Plain Dealer newspaper and Cleveland.com, saw at least nine journalists of color quit or laid off at the newspaper amid substantial layoffs. Advance Local eventually shut down the newsroom of the Plain Dealer, offering the four reporters who remained at the newspaper jobs at Cleveland.com, a newsroom that is not represented by a union. The move seemed aimed at dissolving the Plain Dealer News Guild, which only represented employees at the Plain Dealer. In the process, Advance Local created a situation where several journalists of color with long tenures left the organization, robbing the community of coverage by a staff that reflected at least some of the diversity of the city itself.
Cleveland.com/PD share the honor with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, truly one of the most hellishly dysfunctional newspapers operating in America.

For unfairly prohibiting two Black journalists from covering protests in the city following the death of George Floyd. Pittsburgh’s largest newspaper barred a Black reporter, Alexis Johnson, from covering protests in the city following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The newspaper’s management declared that Johnson had shown bias by posting a joke on Twitter comparing the extensive litter after a Kenny Chesney concert to the destruction following looting. A White reporter who had posted a disparaging remark on Twitter about a man accused of looting was not barred from covering the protests until the newspaper’s union asked about disparate treatment. Editors also sidelined a Black photographer, Michael Santiago, from covering the protests. Of the 140 members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, just 13 are African American. The guild has accused the newspaper of bias at a public press conference and even the White reporter, who was initially treated less severely, says the Black reporters should not have been barred from contributing to coverage.

Editor Chris Quinn has acknowledged, in local forums and occasionally in columns, his organization's longstanding diversity issues in a newsroom that covers a city that is half Black. Recent hires in the fall and the current makeup of the Cleveland.com editorial board have shown the attempt at rectifying that problem to be a sincere one.

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