Cleveland Plain Dealer

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  • Cleveland Plain Dealer's Loss of Reader Representative "Sad, Disappointing" For Local Journalists

    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.

    On the Rice issue, Quinn claimed reports on his parents "may shed further light on why this 12 year old was waving a weapon around a public park."

    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." 

  • 5 Years After Citizens United, Newspapers Fail To Cover Its Impact On Judicial Elections

    ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    Five years after the Supreme Court opened the floodgates of campaign spending with its Citizens United decision, top newspapers in the three states with the most expensive judicial campaigns, Ohio, Alabama, and Texas, have largely failed to connect Citizens United with major changes in these races. The influx of money into state judicial elections following the decision has accelerated negative advertisements and campaign financing that may influence judges' decisions.

  • Major Cleveland Outlet Is Dead Wrong About The City's Transgender Non-Discrimination Law

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Cleveland.com, the news portal for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Northeast Ohio Media Group (NOMG), is grossly misrepresenting an ordinance that would protect transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations, falsely claiming the measure will open public restrooms to both genders.

    The Cleveland City Council is considering an ordinance that would close a loophole in the city's non-discrimination law that currently allows places of public accommodations to deny transgender people access to restrooms and other facilities.

    The ordinance would bring Cleveland's non-discrimination law in line with those of dozens of other major cities - including nearby Columbus -- by essentially removing an exemption in current public accommodations law which allows businesses to refuse bathroom access to transgender people based on their gender identity. That exemption reads:

    (g) Nothing in this section shall be construed to establish unlawful discrimination based on actual or perceived gender identity or expression due to the denial of access to bathrooms, showers, locker rooms or dressing facilities, provided reasonable access to adequate facilities is available;

    Removing the loophole is a common sense solution aimed at alleviating the discrimination and violence that transgender people often face when using restrooms that don't correspond with their gender identity.

    But Cleveland.com has repeatedly mischaracterized the ordinance in its reporting, claiming that the measure will open all restrooms up to both sexes.  

  • STUDY: How Media Advanced Conservatives' Misleading "War On Coal" Narrative

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    A Media Matters analysis of major U.S. newspapers reporting on the alleged "war on coal" found that newspapers provided one-sided coverage of the issue and seldom mentioned the coal industry's negative environmental and health impacts or its efforts to fight regulations. Out of 223 articles published in major U.S. newspapers this year mentioning the phrase "war on coal," more than half failed to mention underlying issues that account for the coal industry's decline and the need for regulations. Further, less than 10 percent of articles mentioned harm caused by the coal industry or how the coal industry is fighting against regulations aimed at protecting miners and reducing pollution.

  • Cleveland.com's Editorial Board Stokes Fears Over Transgender Non-Discrimination Law

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Several of Cleveland.com's editorial board members misrepresented a proposed non-discrimination ordinance that would prohibit discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations - including the use of restrooms and locker rooms - by peddling the myth that sexual predators will be allowed to sneak into women's bathrooms.

    Cleveland City Council is considering an ordinance that would prohibit places of public accommodation from denying transgender people access to restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity. The ordinance would remove a loophole in existing civil rights law, which explicitly allowed businesses to deny access to restrooms based on a person's gender identity.

    On December 4, Cleveland.com - the news portal for the Northeast Ohio Media Group and Cleveland's Plain Dealer - published an editorial board roundtable several writers criticized the ordinance, claiming it would give "both genders... access to all bathrooms and locker rooms." Many of the editorial comments warned that the measure would allow male sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms:

    Sharon Broussard, editorial writer, Northeast Ohio Media Group:

    [...]

    I am not comfortable with a broad, gender-neutral bathroom ordinance that would make it easier for heterosexual men with criminal intent or just kinky habits to gain access to bathrooms used by women and children. And they are out there.

    [...]

    Peter Krouse, editorial writer, Northeast Ohio Media Group:

    [...]

    I don't think opening up all bathrooms to both sexes is the answer. That would deny people, males and females, the privacy they deserve and possibly put them in uncomfortable or compromising situations. It could also create a fertile environment for predators to strike. 

    [...]

    Kevin O'Brien, deputy editorial page editor, The Plain Dealer:

    [...]

    Just go by the external appearance of the plumbing the good Lord gave you and keep your "expressions" to yourself.

  • Cleveland.com Falsely Claims Non-Discrimination Law Would Open Women's Restrooms To Men

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    An article published on Cleveland.com falsely suggested that the city's proposed gender identity non-discrimination ordinance would be exploited by men who want to sneak into women's restrooms and showers.

    The Cleveland City Council is considering an ordinance that would expand the city's non-discrimination law to prohibit business from denying transgender people access to restrooms or facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

    In a November 6 article published on Cleveland.com, Northeast Ohio Media Group (NEOMG) reporter Leila Atassi claimed the legislation would "open all public restrooms and showers to both sexes":

    In an effort to help transgendered people feel more comfortable using public restrooms, Cleveland City Council is considering an ordinance that would require businesses to make their restrooms, showers and locker rooms available to both sexes.

    And barring one gender from using a facility designated for the other would be a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine.

    The measure, which will be discussed at a Workforce and Community Benefits Committee meeting Wednesday, is part of a package of ordinances that update the city's existing anti-discrimination laws to include the transgender community. (Read the legislation in the document viewer below.)

    Councilmen Joe Cimperman and Matt Zone, who sponsored the legislation dealing with the "public accommodations" of private businesses, said in interviews Thursday that the measure is designed to give transgender people the power to use whichever restroom aligns with their gender identity.

  • Unnoticed Fossil Fuel Influence Could Soon Dismantle Ohio's Clean Energy Policies

    STUDY: Local Papers Continue To Miss ALEC Influence In Clean Energy Debate

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Ohio may soon become the first state to freeze its clean energy mandates after a relentless effort from utilities. But the state's major newspapers continue to overlook that the legislators behind the bill are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council -- an organization that connects corporations, including fossil fuel interests, to legislators -- despite repeatedly quoting the organization's members.

  • Most Major Ohio Newspapers Missed Poll Showing Support For Immigration Reform

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    Almost all of Ohio's leading newspapers ignored a new poll showing that Ohioans overwhelmingly support action on immigration reform, even as House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced a decision on November 13 that effectively reduced any chances at reform this year.

    A poll conducted by Harper Polling on behalf of three pro-reform organizations -- including one that counts News Corp (Fox News' parent company) president Rupert Murdoch as a co-chairman, and another that exclusively supports GOP candidates -- found that 74 percent of Ohio residents surveyed feel the immigration system is broken and that another 72 percent support an immigration proposal with a path to citizenship. The poll also found that 68 percent of respondents support a plan that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants and citizenship to those who were brought to the country illegally as children.

    On November 13, the Cleveland Plain Dealer was the only major daily Ohio newspaper to report these findings, despite Boehner's pronouncement that day that he would refuse to allow negotiations between the House and the Senate on an immigration reform bill. As the Washington Post noted, the decision dealt "a significant blow to the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform by this Congress."

  • Cincinnati Enquirer Ignores GOP Attempt To Gut Funding For Women's Health Centers

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    The Cincinnati Enquirer has failed to mention efforts by conservatives in Ohio to strip funding from Planned Parenthood in the House budget.

    Since Republican House lawmakers introduced a substitute bill on April 9 that included the anti-Planned Parenthood measures, several other Ohio newspapers mentioned the proposal to effectively block federal funding for women's health services provider, which could lead to a loss of about $1.7 million. The Akron Beacon Journal penned an editorial attacking the House bill for its planned cuts and The Columbus Dispatch followed suit with an editorial that called for the proposed cuts to be "stripped from the budget." The Cincinnati Enquirer has not produced original content on the stripping of funds, but has published two Associated Press articles which mentioned the plan to strip funding for the women's health organization.

    This is the third time this year Ohio Republicans have attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, the legislature is attempting to "reprioritize" federal family planning funding to make "Planned Parenthood and other stand-alone family planning providers the lowest priority in getting federal funding." The article further explains that out of the 37 clinics operated by Planned Parenthood in the state, only three provide abortions and that it is illegal to use federal funds for abortion procedures:

    House Republican foes of abortions rights inserted language into Gov. John Kasich's mid-budget review bill that would strip Planned Parenthood of up to $1.7 million in federal funding controlled by the state Department of Health.

    [...]

    The language added by GOP abortion opponents, which mirrors a separate bill that sits in committee, reprioritizes federal family planning funds in a way that makes Planned Parenthood and other stand-alone family planning providers the lowest priority in getting federal funding.

    "Clearly, the intent of this legislation is to make sure the federal funds are exhausted before Planned Parenthood has the opportunity to apply for it," said Gary Dougherty, state legislative director for Planned Parenthood. Dougherty [said] Planned Parenthood would lose about $1.7 million.

    Dougherty said only three of the 37 family planning centers run by Planned Parenthood provide abortions, and noted that it's illegal under federal law to use federal funding for abortions.

    In lieu of giving the funds to Planned Parenthood, the bill would give crisis pregnancy centers top priority for funding. As CityBeat, a Cincinnati news site, explained, the money would be used primarily to fund abstinence-only services. However, a 2013 report by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio found that crisis pregnancy centers exhibit a "pattern of using medically inaccurate information and scare tactics" with their patients. 

  • Ohio Media Ignore Financial Link Between Failing Charter School Operators And New Charter-Friendly Education Plan

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Ohio media reporting on Gov. John Kasich's (R) new education funding plan neglected to inform readers that the plan funnels millions of dollars in increased spending to private schools and charter schools whose operators have donated millions in campaign contributions to Kasich and Republicans in the state legislature. 

    The Akron Beacon Journal reported on the Kasich plan's significant enrichment of private school operators and the charter school management industry (emphasis added):

    The $8.5 million expansion in the first year represents a 7 percent increase in allocations for vouchers. Based on the average voucher cost of $5,997, the additional funding could afford scholarships for more than 2,800 children by the end of the budget cycle in 2015.

    The budget also expands funding for charter schools, adding an additional $100 per pupil for facility improvements at the privately operated alternative schools. That's an additional $11.9 million for charter schools based on the Beacon Journal's projection of 2011-2012 student enrollment figures.

    The Beacon Journal didn't mention that the additional $11.9 million for charter schools represents a significant return on the investments of for-profit charter school operators who have helped fund Republican campaigns in Ohio for years. One such operator is David Brennan, whose White Hat Management is among the largest for-profit charter school operators in the state. Brennan and his immediate family contributed over $430,000 to Ohio Republicans in 2010, including $46,000 to Kasich's gubernatorial campaign, according to a Plunderbund.com review of state campaign disclosures. Brennan and another for-profit charter school operator, William Lager, have reportedly funneled over $4 million to Ohio Republicans since 2001.

    Ohio's largest print news outlets -- including the Columbus DispatchCincinnati EnquirerCleveland Plain DealerDayton Daily NewsToledo Blade, and the Beacon Journal -- not only ignored the financial connections between Kasich's charter-friendly plan and his campaign donors, they also failed to note that the charter school industry is receiving this boon despite consistently performing well below Ohio's traditional public school districts. Recently released report cards for the 2011-12 school year indicated that "while 92 percent of the state's public school districts scored effective or higher...only 26 percent of charter schools did."

    Brennan's White Hat Management has a particularly poor record of academic success, according to reporting by NPR.org. NPR's examination found that for the 2010-11 school year, no White Hat school in Ohio earned higher than a "C" on the state report card, and most received a rating of "D" or "F." White Hat was also sued by the schools it manages for pocketing "at least 95 percent of the schools' tax funding."

    Nevertheless, White Hat stands to benefit from Kasich's new plan. Unfortunately, Ohio's parents and students are not benefitting from adequate media focus on Kasich's continued financial conflicts of interest.

  • Ohio Newspapers Fail To Connect ALEC To New Efforts To Loosen Firearms Laws

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    ALECOhio's largest newspapers ignored the influence that gun lobby campaign contributions and the American Legislative Exchange Council may have had in pushing forward a bill that would that would loosen firearms regulations in the state. The proposal, which closely resembles ALEC model legislation, would allow gun owners to bring firearms and loaded clips into the parking lots under the state Capitol and require the recognition of out-of-state conceal carry licenses.  

    The Columbus Dispatch described Ohio House Bill 495, which has been pushed forward by an Ohio Senate committee:

    House Bill 495 essentially would treat concealed-carry licenses like drivers' licenses -- if you have one in another state, it would be recognized in Ohio.

    In addition, the bill would allow people without concealed-carry licenses to now carry loaded ammunition clips in their vehicles, so long as they are stored in a compartment separate from the unloaded gun. It also would allow people to bring their guns to the Statehouse or the Riffe Center parking garages on Capitol Square, as long as the guns remain in their vehicles.

    The bill, pushed by the National Rifle Association and other Ohio pro-gun groups, also says that a concealed-carry licensee no longer has to demonstrate competency when renewing the license.

    Current Ohio law bars those convicted of misdemeanor offenses of violence and drug offenders from obtaining concealed-carry licenses, and require applicants to demonstrate firearms safety competence. As many other states have no such requirements, residents of those states who would not be eligible to earn a license if they were Ohio residents would gain the ability to legally carry concealed if House Bill 495 were passed into law.

    While the Dispatch noted that the gun lobby was pushing the bill, they failed to point out that this 'push' took the form of significant campaign contributions to one of the bill's sponsors, Ohio House Majority Whip John Adams (R), who is "the top recipient of gun industry money in Ohio's current legislature," according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Public Campaign, a group dedicated to reducing the role of special interest money in politics.

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer fared no better in exposing gun lobby money. Its story quoted Senate President Tom Niehaus (R), who is responsible for bringing the bill to the floor, as supporting the bill. But thousands of dollars in political contributions to Niehaus from, among others, the NRA and the Buckeye Firearms Association, were omitted from the Plain Dealer's article. 

    Equally egregious is the fact that both publications completely omitted the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a shadowy conservative organization behind the passage in many states of "stand your ground" laws that became infamous in the wake of the shooting death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin earlier this year. House Bill 495 closely resembles ALEC model legislation, the "Concealed Carry True Reciprocity Act," which states:

    A person licensed or permitted to carry a firearm in any state whose laws recognize and give effect in that state to a license or permit issued under the laws of the State of {insert state} shall be authorized to carry a firearm in this state.

    Twenty-three co-sponsors of House Bill 495 are or have been members of ALEC, including Adams, who chairs the group's Ohio arm. Two members of the Senate committee who approved the bill on Wednesday are members as well.

    What's more, the Dispatch and the Plain Dealer reported that the Senate committee's initial proposal would have prevented Ohio universities from banning guns on campus, but this language was narrowed after concerns from officials at Ohio State University. The papers failed to mention that ALEC and the NRA have teamed up in the past to push for laws allowing firearms on campus, even after mass shootings devastated Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University.

  • Major Ohio Newspapers Rely On AP To Point Out ALEC's Role In Bill Curbing Asbestos Victims Rights

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    Top Ohio newspapers failed to adequately highlight the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) influence on recent asbestos legislation in the state.

    On December 4, the Ohio Senate passed an ALEC-inspired bill that curbs the ability of asbestos victims to file lawsuits for damages. From Legal Newsline:

    A bill meant to stop the duplication of asbestos lawsuits has passed the Ohio state Senate.

    The bill, which passed the Senate by a 19-14 vote, would require anyone to reveal all asbestos claims filed by them or for them. If they don't do so, the person could face perjury charges. The bill made it through Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. It passed the House in January.

    [...]

    Critics, however, say the measure would slow legitimate claims. And they say the bill would make Ohio the first state with such claim restrictions even though Ohio is among the states with the biggest backlog of asbestos claims.

    The Dayton Daily News and Cincinnati Enquirer both failed to link the harmful asbestos bill to ALEC in their original reporting, despite it being covered in other states and nationally. Only the Columbus Dispatch ran an original story that noted the piece of legislation was an ALEC model bill, while the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Dayton Daily News published AP versions of the story that briefly mentioned ALEC. None of the stories highlighted the several legislators who supported the bill who are also known members of ALEC.

    Ohio has the 8th highest rate of death in the nation from mesothelioma and asbestosis with 1,328 total mesothelioma and asbestosis deaths from 1999 to 2008. Ohio is one of several states to pass an ALEC inspired bill attempting to limit the damages victims of asbestos exposure can seek. This year alone, legislation attempting to curtail victims' rights has been passed in Michigan, Arizona, Idaho, and Utah. The Minnesota legislature also passed an ALEC inspired bill, however it was vetoed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D).

    In 2001, ALEC and manufacturing company Crown Holdings, Inc. jointly crafted model legislation which attempted to limit the amount in compensation victims of asbestos-related diseases received from companies who exposed their workers to asbestos. Coverage of the model bill in Minnesota from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune revealed that this "national effort" was being undertaken by the "$8 billion can manufacturer to shield itself from costly asbestos lawsuits." Even the general counsel to Crown Holdings, William Gallagher, announced in testimony before the Michigan House Judiciary Committee that the laws passed in other states were based on ALEC model legislation and urged Michigan to enact a similar law.

    Unsurprisingly, several legislators involved in the crafting of the Ohio asbestos bill are or were members of ALEC. A Cincinnati Enquirer article -- while completely omitting any ALEC mentions -- cited several legislators who sponsored and voted for the bill including the bill's originator Rep. Louis Blessing Jr., Senate President Tom Niehaus, Sen. Bill Seitz and Sen. Bill Coley. All four have known ties to ALEC according to the Center for Media and Democracy's project, ALEC Exposed.

    Despite the many news reports and facts linking this bill to ALEC, Ohio newspapers generally failed to produce original content which makes the link. The Cincinnati Enquirer published a piece of original content that made no mention of ALEC. The Dayton Daily News published one original news story which did not mention ALEC. In addition, the Daily News published two AP stories on the bill, but only one of which made the ALEC connection. The only paper to run an original story mentioning ALEC was the Columbus Dispatch which, buried at the bottom of a story on legislative action banning Internet cafes, wrote a short blurb on other lame-duck legislative action:

    Following a spirited debate, the Senate approved House Bill 380, which is aimed at victims of on-the-job asbestos exposure who try to pursue two avenues for damages. It would require workers to disclose all asbestos claims they have filed. Critics say it would block legitimate claims. The bill is based on model legislation from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. The bill passed 19-14, with four Republicans, including Sen. Jim Hughes, R-Columbus, joining all Democrats in opposition.

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Dayton Daily News both ran an AP version of the story that referenced ALEC at the end of the story:

    The bill stems from model legislation developed by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, which has drawn attention for the entree it's recently gained at statehouses through efforts including opulent, corporate-backed conferences not always subject to normal disclosure rules.

    None of this coverage -- the original content as well as the AP article -- mentioned the direct and extensive links between the bill's sponsors and ALEC, even when mentioning those legislators in their reporting.

    Ohio papers are not alone, however. When the ALEC asbestos bill was passed in Michigan neither of the state's two biggest newspapers covered the connection.