Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
Judging the PD & Editor Goldberg
Submitted by Roldo on Tue, 05/06/2008 - 12:34.
A few thoughts on our morning newspaper as it struggles for relevance.
You have to give credit to Plain Dealer Editor Susan Goldberg. She does have moxie that has often been missing in our morning newspaper.
I don’t like the tabloidization of the front page. I think it goes too far in over-playing stories simply for dramatic effect. It has a cartoonish quality.
This morning’s photograph of the scowling face of state attorney general Marc Dann measured eight inches long by 5-1/2 inches wide. About the same space was given to other public officials who were asking Dann to resign. The front-page article on the issue, on the other hand, was short. It measured about three and a half inches deep and three columns wide.
The only redeeming factor of this display – at least the entire front page wasn’t devoted to LeBron and the Cavs. There’s always tomorrow, however, as the Cavs face off with the Boston Celtics tonight. LeBron got a couple of inches atop Page One.
Goldberg showed some guts in the Joanna Connors personal piece Sunday. The PD reporter described her rape and the resulting trauma in a 16-page, no-ads section on Sunday. “We risk offending some readers in the hope that Joanna’s story will help other sexual-assault victims grapple with their own trauma and misdirected self-blame, and find ways to heal,” Goldberg wrote in an unusual front page message to PD readers. While it may have been more than anyone wanted to read, it was a dramatic presentation and made some important points for the public.
Along with the “guts” to do this in a rather conservative city, Goldberg shows that she’s determined to make her name here. The last editor, Doug Clifton, earned his journalistic honors by finally allowing reporters to go after Mayor Michael White. It spelled the end of White’s long era at City Hall.
Goldberg is showing similar toughness with political coverage. She used a full op-ed page to deal with the tiff her reporters had with County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora. Then she allowed highlighted display of Councilman’s Joe Santiago’s dealing with bar problems in his ward and unusual attention to the dog problems of Councilman Roosevelt Coats and his wife.
No one could have as undistinguished a career as Coats and his long service testifies to Council’s low stature.
The week-ago Sunday front page display of photos of patronage hires by County Auditor Pat O’Malley and the impending display of County Auditor Frank Russo’s patronage line-up say that Goldberg isn’t afraid to go after the politicians.
It’s good to see this kind of critical pressure on public officials, especially in a town so Democratic-dominated that these officials have become untouchable with voters.
The other aspect – reforming the system – may be more challenging to Goldberg. Many have said in the past that there are too many County office holders. The need to consolidate several offices – for example, the Recorder, Treasurer and Auditor into one non-elected department – is apparent and could eliminate many unessential employees and save needed County resources.
I did have to laugh, however, with an editorial calling upon County Commissioner Tim Hagan to lead a fight for such reforms. That’s truly pathetic. He’s been part of the problem for decades and was one of the politicians to deter similar reforms after a citizen study some years ago offered a workable plan. Hagan began his career years ago by marrying the Democratic boss’s daughter, insuring a life-time sinecure at the county.
All this monitoring of public officials is welcome.
However, Goldberg – to be anywhere near a strong, successful editor – needs to have the newspaper deal with bigger issues than a Councilman’s dog and political patronage.
This leaves the historic Huntington (formerly Union Commerce) bank building in jeopardy as another tenant moves to highly subsidized new digs. Where’s the advantage for Cleveland here? Anyone walking through the lobby of the Huntington views what the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History described as “the basilican halls with 38-feet high Corinthian columns and barrel-vaulted ceilings ... intended to express grandeur and permanence” with “four large murals by Jules Guerin that fill the pediments at the ends of each hall.”
Permanence in our society isn’t tolerated as we build new by government subsidy and destroy old by neglect. New development gets tens of millions of dollars of public money and the old is left to deteriorate or worse.
When will there be a Plain Dealer that deals forthrightly with Cleveland’s corporate community?
The answer: Never.
But that’s the measure we should judge Goldberg. Hitting Dimora is easy.
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