CLEVELAND — A difficult week at Ohio's largest newspaper has culminated in ten journalists asking to be laid off.
On Friday, The Cleveland Plain Dealer announced that 10 of its reporters and photographers had voluntarily asked to be laid off from the paper.
"It is always difficult to watch our friends and talented colleagues leave our newsroom," said Editor Tim Warsinskey in a statement. "That was true last week and it’s true today. However, the individuals leaving today made personal decisions to voluntarily leave The Plain Dealer. I respect them and their decisions."
Seven days ago, The Plain Dealer announcing it had laid off 22 people due to what Warsinskey termed as 'ongoing financial challenges in the newspaper business.' The layoffs included reporters, photographers, and managers.
Then on Tuesday, the Plain Dealer News Guild revealed that the majority of its 14 remaining members in its newsroom had been informed they will no longer be covering Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Summit County or the state of Ohio. Instead, they will become a bureau covering five outlying counties: Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina and Portage.
Coverage of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Summit County and the state of Ohio will now be provided by The Plain Dealer's sister newsroom, Cleveland.com. Cleveland.com has been providing content in the Plain Dealer for several years.
The Plain Dealer News Guild says that it believes the moves were made to punish its reporters for belonging to a union. Cleveland.com, which like the Plan Dealer is owned by Advance Local, is a non-union newsroom.
On Friday afternoon, the Guild put out a lengthy statement on its social media platforms. "The Plain Dealer and its out-of-state owners put dedicated and seasoned journalists in an impossible situation earlier this week in a blatant attempt to embarrass them by banning most of them from reporting on Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and the state. For many, that meant being kept from covering the topics they know best and in many cases are regarded locally and nationally as experts," the Guild wrote.
The ten journalists who were laid off are as follows:
- Rachel Dissell
- Ginger Christ
- Patrick O’Donnell
- Laura DeMarco
- John Petkovic
- Michelle Jarboe
- Phillip Morris
- Lisa DeJong
- Gus Chan
- Greg Burnett
John Caniglia, Susan Glaser, Steven Litt and Terry Pluto will all remain at The Plain Dealer.
"Over the years in any newsroom, there are waves of personnel changes. Folks who cover beats for decades move on. New and sometimes younger journalists step in and usually wind up surprising us all. It's our job to develop them, guide good journalism and continue to make The Plain Dealer a relevant, reliable and accurate source of news, sports, business, arts, entertainment, food, opinion and even go & do when we're allowed to go and do again," Warsinskey wrote on Friday.
You can read Tim Warsinskey's entire letter below.
Today, 10 of our reporters and photographers made the decision to voluntarily ask to be laid off. This comes a week after we regretfully parted ways with some talented journalists. These departures are emblematic of a larger challenge our industry is facing.
It is always difficult to watch our friends and talented colleagues leave our newsroom. That was true last week and it’s true today. However, the individuals leaving today made personal decisions to voluntarily leave The Plain Dealer. I respect them and their decisions.
Nevertheless, as The Plain Dealer continues to adapt to the financial challenges facing everyone in the news industry, and indeed the entire country right now, I want to assure our readers, subscribers and advertisers that some important things remain unchanged at The Plain Dealer.
You will still read locally produced, important and impactful stories about Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio and the COVID-19 pandemic in our pages – none of that coverage will be reduced.
We will continue to be the leading source for news and information here in Northeast Ohio.
And we are not going anywhere. We will continue to print the paper seven days a week, deliver four days a week, including Sunday, and during this crisis, make access to our e-edition free so we can help keep our community informed.
All of this continues thanks to our long-standing practice of publishing stories produced by local reporters from our sister company, cleveland.com, which is the dominant digital news source in Ohio. A large percentage of the journalism in The Plain Dealer every day since 2013 has been produced by cleveland.com reporters, photographers and editors, including those covering Cleveland City Hall, Cuyahoga County, the statehouse, the justice system, public safety, sports, food, arts and entertainment. This continuing relationship will enable The Plain Dealer’s ability to continue to bring you the news you need even during this time of transition.
Together, these two newsrooms still have nearly 70 journalists, all but six of whom are at cleveland.com, covering Greater Cleveland and Ohio. That many journalists is on par with some of the leading, similar-sized papers and websites in the Midwest.
Meanwhile, more than 600 Plain Dealer employees and contractors work tirelessly every day to design, print, package and distribute more than a half million newspapers each week. They are helping to keep this community informed in an era when each of them knows just leaving the house puts her or him at potential risk. That essential work also will continue.
I am not diminishing the loss of journalists from our newsroom, whether today or over the past several years. These are good people who have represented The Plain Dealer well and worked hard to make this community a better place.
Right now, we are in the process of reevaluating our plans for our newsroom and developing a new path forward that will allow us to keep our commitment to you. I will share those plans with you as soon as I am able.
But despite all of these changes, The Plain Dealer is still here and will be here, giving you the stories that matter to Northeast Ohio and helping us understand the world around us.
Over the years in any newsroom, there are waves of personnel changes. Folks who cover beats for decades move on. New and sometimes younger journalists step in and usually wind up surprising us all. It's our job to develop them, guide good journalism and continue to make The Plain Dealer a relevant, reliable and accurate source of news, sports, business, arts, entertainment, food, opinion and even go & do when we're allowed to go and do again.
You can continue to rely on The Plain Dealer, and cleveland.com, to bring you the news whether you’re opening a paper at your kitchen table or scrolling through stories on your phone.
That commitment will never change.