Earlier this week, Tim Warsinskey, editor of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for just a week, announced that the newspaper would be laying off 22 newsroom employees on March 23 due to lost revenue from subscriptions and advertising. Eighteen of the employees are represented by local One of the Newspaper Guild; four others are unrepresented managers. According to The Plain Dealer News Guild, this will leave just 14 Guild journalists to cover a metropolitan area of more than 2 million people in northeast Ohio.
In a column on March 9, Warsinskey wrote, “The reason is strictly financial. The industry revenue model has changed, and print newspapers have struggled to overcome deep losses in subscriptions and advertising. More people access the news on digital platforms than ever before. Younger audiences are not subscribing to print editions of newspapers anywhere near the levels previous generations did.”
“Despite this disheartening news, The Plain Dealer, both in print and our e-edition, will continue to serve greater Cleveland as a valuable source of local journalism. This move today allows us to amplify our resources and continue to strive toward impactful and relevant reporting. Over the next two weeks, we will be finalizing our plans on how our resources will be allocated and I will share them with you as soon as I can,” Warsinskey added.
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The editor reassured readers that this loss of newsroom staff would not create a news desert in Cleveland. Between The Plain Dealer and sister site Cleveland.com, there would be 77 journalists remaining to cover stories readers in northeast Ohio. The newspaper will continue to be printed daily and delivered to subscribers on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
In March 2019, The Plain Dealer also made cuts, eliminating 12 reporters, photographers and editors, says CleveScene.com. This announcement came several months after announcing that the newspaper would outsource 24 production positions.
Then-editor George Rodriguez said of the cuts, “The essence of a reduction in force like this is that good people lose their jobs, through no fault of their own. That is a kind of tragedy, and one that will be deeply felt by everyone at The Plain Dealer.”
The Plain Dealer News Guild spoke about the layoffs in a March 9 post to Facebook. Here is an excerpt from their post.
On March 15, 2019, The Plain Dealer News Guild noted on Twitter that their unit had 340 members 20 years ago. With 30 layoffs a year ago, that represented a 90% reduction in workforce. This latest round drops that number in further.
The Plain Dealer is owned by Advance Publications, an American media company founded by S.I. Newshouse in 1922. In addition to investments in Charter Communications, Discovery and Reddit, Advance owns Conde Nast, Advance Local, Leaders Group, Pop, Stage Entertainment and others.
While layoffs continue to plague the media industry, this is particularly devastating news for The Plain Dealer and readers in the northeast Ohio region who need information now more than ever. In 20 years, the newspaper has lost more than 90% of staff and has only a skeleton crew left, including an editor new to his role. It seems that not even a strong labor union and dedicated staff can stop layoffs if a company is determined to implement them. Add the coronavirus spread and the need for more information – not less – these layoffs will have a huge impact on this community and on those who are now without jobs.