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The Plain Dealer Will Lay Off 22 Staff Members This Month

Reporters at the paper found out at the same time a statement from Editor-in-Chief Tim Warsinskey was released. [Taylor Haggerty / ideastream]
a Sunday print edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Updated: 10:56 a.m., Tuesday, March 10, 2020.

The Plain Dealer will lay off 22 staffers later this month, including 18 members of the Cleveland newspaper’s union, Local 1 of the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild.

The layoffs are “strictly financial,” Editor-in-Chief Tim Warsinskey said in a statement published on cleveland.com, news website that is also owned by the paper’s sister company, Advance Local.

“The industry revenue model has changed and print newspapers have struggled to overcome deep losses in subscriptions and advertising,” Warsinskey wrote.

In 2019, the paper lost 36 of staff members in two layoffs early in the year.

“In my 30 years at The Plain Dealer, some as a union leader, I have experienced firsthand the changes, both good and bad, in our profession,” Warsinskey wrote. “I have stood side-by-side with respected colleagues, fighting for their jobs and the ideals of journalism we all strive to represent. I am empathetic, but do not pretend to fully realize their anguish.”

Warsinskey began his term as editor-in-chief this month, after George Rodrigue stepped down from that position to take a different job with Advance.

The decision brings the union staff at The Plain Dealer down to 14, according to a statement from the PD News Guild.

“Despite tough times in the journalism industry, our newsroom has held its own,” the statement reads. “To this day, the print product still supports both The Plain Dealer and the online operation. We owe our readers who have remained loyal our heartfelt thanks for that.”

The layoffs were announced to staff less than half an hour before Warsinskey’s announcement was published, the statement said. Some staff members could not make the meeting, according to the statement, and were alerted to the layoffs “by sources or spouses as they filed stories or conducted interviews.”

Staff were still being notified Monday afternoon, said Rachel Dissell, Plain Dealer reporter and union vice chair.

“We understand the challenges of this industry as much as any newsroom,” Dissell said. “What we can’t fathom is why our newsroom of outstanding and experienced journalists is the one being pillaged, repeatedly, when we have continued to contribute to both the paper and digital platforms – and our newspaper is the source of revenue-supporting journalism here.”

The Plain Dealer and  cleveland.com will have a combined staff of 77 journalists, including reporters based in Akron, Columbus and Washington, D.C., after the layoffs, Warsinskey said.

The union contends combining Plain Dealer staff numbers with cleveland.com's is an attempt to hide the impact of the layoffs.

“This highlights the obvious union-busting aspect of this move,” the statement reads. “Union jobs and years of experience are being replaced by lower-paid, non-union workers – not to mention wire and non-local syndicated stories.”

The layoffs are slated for March 23.