Plain Dealer Loses Ten More Reporters Following Change In Coverage

A man looks at a group of empty Plain Dealer newspaper boxes.
[Plain Dealer News Guild Facebook]

Ten Plain Dealer journalists are leaving the newsroom after recent layoffs and a change in direction for the Cleveland paper.

Twenty-two staffers were laid off at the end of last week. On Tuesday, the paper announced most of the remaining 14 journalists would be taken off their established beats and shifted to focus on five outlying counties. Now, 10 of those staffers are resigning from the paper.

“It is always difficult to watch our friends and talented colleagues leave our newsroom. That was true last week and it’s true today,” editor Tim Warsinskey said in a column published Friday on sister outlet cleveland.com. “However, the individuals leaving today made personal decisions to voluntarily leave The Plain Dealer. I respect them and their decisions.”

In a statement on social media, the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild Local 1 argued the departures weren't voluntary decisions but a result of the coverage change made by the paper's owners.

“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,” the statement said. “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 layoffs include three leaders of the News Guild: Guild Chair and health reporter Ginger Christ, Vice Chair and investigative reporter Rachel Dissell, and Vice Chair and arts and culture reporter and editor Laura DeMarco.

The union negotiated an exit that allowed for severance pay and healthcare during the pandemic, the statement said.

The Plain Dealer will still create daily print editions, Warsinskey said in his column. The paper includes work from cleveland.com in its print edition.

“[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,” Warsinskey wrote.

Earlier this week, the union spoke out against the shift away from coverage of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, calling the decision a loss for the community and said management at the paper didn’t “value the expertise of its veteran reporters.”

Other staff departing the paper Friday include features reporter Greg Burnett, photographers Gus Chan and Lisa DeJong, real estate reporter Michelle Jarboe, education reporter Patrick O'Donnell, arts and culture reporter John Petkovic and columnist Phillip Morris.

Between the Plain Dealer’s remaining staff and the reporters at cleveland.com, Warsinskey said, there are still 70 journalists working to cover the region. All but six of those reporters work at cleveland.com, he said.

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