Cleveland daily newspaper reduced to 4 union journalists

Posted at 2:23 PM, Apr 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-11 14:23:59-04

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland has been reduced as an organization to little more than the name atop its front page after owners laid off 10 of its remaining 14 union journalists.

The bulk of the stories and photographs that will be published in the newspaper established in the 1840s will come from the roughly 70 journalists working for the non-unionized news site. The newspaper and the website are both owned by New York-based Advance Publications Inc.

A message seeking comment was left Saturday with an Advance spokesperson.

The reduction follows the layoffs of 18 union journalists and four managers last week. The remaining reporters and photographers were told they would be covering five outlying counties and were no longer permitted to write about Cleveland, Cuyahoga County or the state of Ohio.

Ten of the remaining 14 Newspaper Guild members, unhappy with the change in assignments, asked management Wednesday to lay them off. Their requests were accepted Friday.

A sports columnist, an art critic, a travel writer and one news reporter are the last remaining members of a union local that two decades ago represented around 340 Plain Dealer news employees. It isn't clear how many non-union journalists, including any managers, might still be working for the newspaper.

Union officials argue the layoffs were not voluntary because the newspaper and its "out-of-state owners put dedicated and seasoned journalists in an impossible situation" by limiting the stories they are allowed to work on.

"For many, that meant being kept from covering the topics they know best and in many cases are regarded locally and nationally as experts," according to a statement on the Newspaper Guild's Facebook page.

The newly appointed editor of The Plain Dealer, Tim Warsinskey, wrote a column posted Friday on that said "important and impactful stories" about Cleveland, the county and state will appear in the newspaper. He called the departure of 10 more Plain Dealer journalists "emblematic of a larger challenge our industry is facing."

Warsinskey has said the layoffs, which were announced March 1 along with his appointment, were the result of reduced advertising, not the coronavirus outbreak -- though many news organizations have made cuts because of ad revenue losses tied to the pandemic.

"We will continue to be the leading source for news and information here in Northeast Ohio," Warsinskey wrote.

The newspaper and split into separate newsgathering organizations in 2013, with stories and photographs from both staffs used interchangeably online and in print.