Honoring graduating seniors, and explaining a decision about candidates

We introduced “Senior Shout Outs” last year to provide an opportunity to recognize the high school seniors who couldn’t do anything but watch as the pandemic ruined every anticipated senior-spring rite of passage—from prom to skip day to commencement itself.

It was a last-minute idea that allowed parents and friends to shine the spotlight on 2020 graduates whose big moment had been overrun by current events.

The class of 2021 has had a strange and disappointing year, too, and we’re offering Senior Shout Outs again, in the June issue, so you can give public recognition to the graduating senior(s) in your bubble.

It’s open to anyone anywhere—public school or private. Cost is $25 ($50 with a photo). Deadline is May 10, and all proceeds support the ongoing publication of the Heights Observer, which lost nearly half its revenue to the pandemic, and will likely take a few years to rebuild.

Details and purchase are available through Eventbrite at bit.ly/seniors21observer.

(Disclosure: I get paid commission to manage the Heights Observer’s advertising sales, but I didn’t take any commission for money that came in from the Shout Outs last year, nor will I this year.)

All four of the people who are running so far in Cleveland Heights’ first-ever mayoral campaign used our March issue to announce their candidacy.

We published an ad from Kahlil Seren, opinion pieces from Barbara Danforth and Josie Moore, and a news article about Melody Hart.

At least one reader noticed the different treatments, and asked why they weren’t all handled the same way.

The first is easily explained: Seren paid for the ad space and we thank him for the financial support. He could have contributed an announcement (free) as the others did, and he may yet do so.

Danforth and Moore submitted first-person pieces under their own names, which immediately categorized them as opinion pieces. Both focused on their reasons for running.

Hart’s piece was submitted by Gary Benjamin, who is her husband and campaign manager. It was written in third-person journalistic style, and focused more heavily on Hart’s credentials and factual background.

It could easily have been treated like the others simply by placing it on a page labeled “Opinion.” I don’t have an argument with anyone who thinks that’s what we should have done.

But another consideration in publishing an article is the author’s intention. For the most part, our contributors aren’t professional writers; we don't always know if the decisions they make around a submission are intentional, or if they reflect unfamiliarity with our processes.

In this case, Benjamin’s piece met the basic standards of a news article, and we opted to treat it as one. We thought his intention was clear in submitting the piece as news rather than opinion, and he disclosed his connection to the candidate, as we ask.

In the end, I believe all four candidates were reasonable and transparent in their submissions. I believe the editorial decisions we made were judicious and considerate of each candidate’s intention. I also acknowledge that it may have looked funny to those who noticed, and offer assurance that something similar could happen again at any time.

Bob Rosenbaum

Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 10:28 AM, 04.01.2021