Local journalists fear for future of Plain Dealer
Peter Zicari, online news editor for the Plain Dealer and a Cleveland Heights resident, believes that approximately “one in three” Plain Dealer newsroom staff will be laid off in 2013. He said that he expects to be moved away from interactive graphics and instead work on “lower-impact, higher-volume activities.” Zicari characterizes the switch as “very conservative . . . when risky experiments are needed,” but said he does not anticipate a serious drop in circulation.
“Cleveland is very conservative in its habits,” said Zicari, “and older people accustomed to the print experience will probably continue to buy the paper. Younger people aren't reading it in the first place.”
Commenting on rumors that owners of the Plain Dealer likely will reduce the frequency of publication in the future, from seven days a week to just three, Gus Chan, a Plain Dealer photographer and also a Cleveland Heights resident, said that he sees the reduction as a mistake.
“A large portion of our readership doesn't have access to the Internet,” said Chan. “I’ve seen a figure floating around that [estimates the] number of homes without Internet access is around 50 percent. We have a devoted readership who is elderly, who loves to read the daily newspaper. If you cut out a portion of the poor and elderly, a large portion of the population won't be informed. A large portion of the population will not get their news in a timely manner.”
Chan sees the Internet and digital photography as the two major changes to affect print news since he began working in the industry. Now, as a 32-year news industry veteran, Chan said he knows that layoffs are certain, and believes that in-depth and long-term reporting projects will suffer as a result.
Sue Hoffman of Solon has worked in the newspaper industry for 34 years. She believes more people will turn to the Internet for news, pointing out that even newspapers that print daily editions post updated or breaking stories online. The Cleveland Jewish News, a weekly paper, updates its website daily, she noted.
Peggy Turbett, the Plain Dealer’s photo editor, said while no particular plans for any changes in circulation have been announced, many readers tell her that they rely on a daily paper.
“The continuity and content of the daily paper, particularly one of the Plain Dealer’s caliber, is an important aspect of keeping the public informed,” said Turbett. “This is particularly true with investigative stories, government and business watchdog reports, and election analysis. The newer methods of news delivery, via computers, electronic notepads and cell phone applications, are a quicker way of delivering news. And the newspaper operation is expanding into these areas. But I know I spend more time with an extensive story, or read a story that I wasn't initially interested in, when I pick up the newspaper. The electronic news delivery is just quick hits for me.”
Turbett also expressed concern about how readers will get news during a power outage, when Internet and television aren’t available.
Simone Quartell, a Heights High graduate, is a student at Cleveland State University and a Heights Observer intern.