The "Save The Plain Dealer" campaign began this weekend in Cleveland as journalists react to rumors about staff cuts and reduced publication of the paper which, like many newspapers, has fallen on difficult times.
John Mangels, science writer for the paper, says, "We're struggling with what every old-line newspaper is struggling with, which is how to reinvent yourself, realizing that the web is here, advertising dollars are not, subscribers are migrating, we've got to figure out the digital side of things."
Advance Publications, the parent company of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, has not yet announced what the cuts will involve, and they did not respond to The Takeaway's repeated calls for comment. But journalists have taken preemptive action.
"I think the problem that we see with the Newhouse model, the Advance model that’s being tried in other cities, is that it seems to abandon what we do best, which is really deep-dive journalism," John Mangels says. "If you get rid of that, we’re like everybody else; we’ve lost the competitive edge. And it’s really hard to see how we will stand out, how we’ll compete, how we’ll make money, which is what we really need to do, in order to fund that journalism."
Rachel Dissell agrees that the paper is vital to the community. “Recently here in Cleveland, we had a really large federal corruption probe that we covered for three and a half years. And as part of that, we probably requested two or three hundred thousand public records," she says. “I feel that if we don’t have the same number of people making those calls, asking those questions, and reporting on those stories, then we won’t see the same change when it’s necessary.”
Part of the struggle with the newspaper industry, according to Mangels, is that people have become accustomed to getting their news for free on the internet. "I think that one of the hard things we’re going to have to do is try to re-educate audiences that have gotten used to, basically, free news on the web," he says, citing The New York times and the Minneapolis paper as successful examples of the pay wall system.
"There are some things that you're going to need to pay for," Mangels says.