Cleveland’s Plain Dealer announced the layoff of 22 more journalists Friday, and said more could be gone in the weeks to come due to the “ongoing financial challenges in the newspaper business.”
Additionally, the paper said it will no longer be covering Cleveland or the state of Ohio generally, but instead it will become a bureau of Cleveland.com covering five counties: Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina and Portage.
The Morning Journal News reported two columnists, a critic and a travel writer were told that they can continue their assignments, but the other 10 reporters and photographers would be reassigned to the five counties previously stated above.
Between The Plain Dealer newsroom and Cleveland.com, the companies will have 77 journalists and content producers sharing the stories.
Plain Dealer editor Tim Warsinskey called the move a “company-wide strategy decision,” according to a social media post by union members at The Plain Dealer News Guild. He reportedly said the layoffs were the result of reduced advertising revenue, not by the economic toll the coronavirus is having on the news industry.
Of the 77 journalists covering Northeast Ohio for the company, only 16 remain at The Plain Dealer, and only 14 of those are union members, according to the Guild.
“The two-newsroom operation was never going to become tenable or permanent,” union members say Warsinskey told staffers.
The Guild the newspaper workers responded to the news of the layoff with a lengthy statement that said, in part:
Today, The Plain Dealer laid off 22 journalists, including 18 members of the Plain Dealer unit of the Northeast Ohio News Guild Local 1. More could be gone in the weeks to come.
We are profoundly disappointed and ashamed that the company laid off every black woman on our staff, leaving a massive gap in knowledge and experience in our newsroom. Our staff is now 81% white, in a city that is 47% black. It is unacceptable.
The layoffs come at a time when our members have been working tirelessly to bring essential local news to the community, writing human-focused stories about the coronavirus pandemic.
Together, the laid off journalists represent more than 500 years of journalism experience, much of it in Northeast Ohio. Our newsroom — and Cleveland — will never be the same without them.
On Tuesday, the Guild said in another statement that “a move like this is incomprehensible and can only be interpreted as a way to punish people for belonging to a union.”
“This decision is a loss for the people of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County who care about in-depth and solutions-based reporting that Plain Dealer reporters have consistently provided in recent years and a win for public officials and others who don’t want their misdeeds uncovered,” the Guild statement concluded.
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Samantha Witwer is a reporter at The Ohio Star.
Photo “Cleveland Plain-Dealer” by Eddie-S. CC BY 2.0.