Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP
The Plain Dealer's decision to cut its reader representative position is drawing criticism from local media and veteran journalists in Cleveland who say it reduces valued self-criticism.
Ted Diadiun, who has held the post since 2005, wrote on Saturday that he is giving up the position in order to join the paper's editorial board. He added that editor George Rodrigue and Chris Quinn, vice president of content for the Northeast Ohio Media Group that owns the newspaper, "will provide insight and response in columns" in the event "larger journalism issues need to be addressed."
But local observers disagreed with the move, noting that having a person devoted to self-criticism offers more internal review than just having the top editors do it.
"Chris Quinn doesn't respond like an editor should and for Ted to say that George and Chris Quinn will be the ones handling this stuff is troubling to me," said Vince Grzegorek, editor of the alternative weekly Cleveland Scene. "It is the largest media operation in town where we have any number of big topics being discussed. For someone not to be examining how they do their job is a disservice."
Jim McIntyre, news director at WHK Radio in Cleveland and a 30-year broadcast media veteran of the area, echoed that view.
"I'm saddened by it, I enjoyed his column very much. I thought he provided an insight into the process, an insight that those outside the print media weren't privy to," he said. "It's always important to have access to the decision makers I think, just hold them accountable for what they're publishing."
Doug Clifton, the Plain Dealer editor from 1999 to 2007 who created the position, said: "I still believe in the concept. If there was a way to keep it, I would have kept it."
The loss of an internal review also comes at a time when the newspaper has been criticized for the way it has handled several stories.
Among them was the coverage of the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American who was shot and killed by police in late 2014. The paper reported on Tamir's father and focused on his criminal record, even posting a mug shot.
Another issue arose just a few weeks earlier when the Plain Dealer posted, then removed, video of its editorial board interview with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Fitzgerald and incumbent Republican Governor John Kasich.
As for the video interview, Quinn ordered the video to be taken down from the Cleveland.com website, prompting the Columbia Journalism Review to call the move "weird" and the original lack of explanation from Quinn "frustrating."