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Remaining Plain Dealer Staff Will Not Cover Cleveland, Cuyahoga County News

Plain Dealer reporters will shift their focus from Cuyahoga County to five outlying counties. [Taylor Haggerty / ideastream]
A copy of The Plain Dealer on a table.

Updated: 5:37 p.m., Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Most of the remaining staff at The Plain Dealer will no longer cover news in Cleveland or Cuyahoga and Summit counties, instead shifting to become a "bureau" covering outlying areas.

The announcement comes just days after 22 staff were laid off.

The 14 remaining reporters will cover five Northeast Ohio counties: Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina and Portage, according to a statement from the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild Local 1.

The massive shift by owner Advance Publications moves several staff members off longtime beats covering local issues, includes real estate reporter Michelle Jarboe, education reporter Patrick O’Donnell, health reporter Ginger Christ, investigative journalists Rachel Dissell and John Caniglia, and the Friday magazine's Greg Burnett.

Photojournalists Gus Chan and Lisa DeJong will no longer cover Cuyahoga County.

Exceptions are being made for four employees: arts and architecture critic Steven Litt, columnists Terry Pluto and Phillip Morris, and regional travel reporter Susan Glaser.

“It’s clear that the company doesn’t value the expertise of its veteran reporters,” the News Guild said in a statement, “and it doesn’t think the community does either.”

The shift is a way to punish union members at the Plain Dealer, the Guild alleged in the statement, moving beats to nonunion sister news outlet cleveland.com.

“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 union's statement said.

Plain Dealer Editor Tim Warsinskey defended the changes in coverage area in an statement emailed to ideastream on Tuesday, saying the moves are designed to deliver coverage to areas that make up a large portion of the paper’s subscription base but that have been otherwise underserved.

“This broadening of our coverage area is especially important in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when all of our readers, regardless of where they live, deserve to know how the virus is affecting their local communities and how their local communities are responding,” Warsinskey said.

The move won’t take away from coverage of Cuyahoga and Summit counties, he said.

“I hope that my colleagues in Local One of The Newspaper Guild, which represents Plain Dealer reporters and photographers, embrace this evolution of our paper, in keeping with their mission to advance local journalism,” Warsinskey said.

Advance Publications manages The Plain Dealer, while Advance Local manages cleveland.com. No layoffs have been announced for cleveland.com.

Eighteen union members of the Plain Dealer staff were laid off Friday, along with four nonunion managers.