PLAIN DEALER, WOMEN EDITORS AND CHANGE

Submitted by Roldo on Sat, 02/21/2009 - 12:14.

Long-time Cleveland writer John Ettorre at a journalism meeting this week asked Susan Goldberg, Plain Dealer Editor, whether the newspaper might be losing some male perspective because several top editors were women. Not the most politically correct of questions but it could have elicited a valuable exchange.

Goldberg instead was sharp in her response before an audience of a meeting sponsored by the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist, according to Crain’s Cleveland Business:

“I am stunned to get this question in this day and age. The majority of editors are men. It’s high time that women are running newsrooms. I don’t know why you are threatened by that.”

I’d have to agree with Goldberg that the ratio of male and female in newsrooms has always been out of balance, seriously so.
However, I noticed something that women editors might correct, especially as space for valuable information become sparer and sparer in our newspapers.

What put my mind in this direction were the last two days of examining the Plain Dealer’s sports pages.

In these times of financial stress, ads ought to have some relationship to coverage. You ought not to be wasting newsprint and the workforce. So I look at the sports pages the last two days. I find 12 pages of sports yesterday and 10 pages of sports today. I expect some balance between space given to sport coverage and advertising revenue.

Here’s what I found: With the full 12-page issue in Thursday’s sports pages, there was one paid ad of 3 columns and four inches. The sports pages, with significant coverage to wealthy sports businesses, had some 1,200 inches of space (figuring 20 inch columns, five per page) to fill.

On Friday for 10 pages, 1,000 inches of space, earned the newspaper exactly seven, one-inch ads or seven inches of paid advertising supporting the nearly 1,000 inches of free space for promotion often of highly paid sports figures and their wealth teams.

The sports pages aren’t paying their way, I’d say and reporters being mowed down ought to be concerned that wealthy sports owners aren’t paying via advertising for their free coverage.

I don’t think Ms. Goldberg’s thinking has changed things much and I’m wishing for more women editors who are serious journalists ready to give this community the information it needs. More pages of LeBron don’t make it for me.

My friend Ettorre in his question mentioned the elevation of Betsy Sullivan as the replacement of Brent Larkin as Director of the PD editorial pages, a very crucial job. I think Sullivan is an excellent choice; however, I’m not happy that she will be burdened by having Larkin continuing writing columns. It doesn’t do well for the new boss to have the old boss looking over the shoulder in any respect.

Larkin – whose institutional memory of things political here would be hard to beat – happens to often to have the wrong institutional memory for me. Who will tell him that his column might be a bit prejudicial? Or that there are more important views to be shared?

I’d hate to expect columns from Larkin as his most recent, a flak job for the politically powerful Republican couple, Joan & Roger Synenberg. Larkin, who has been writing fewer columns in the last year or more, choose to berate a choice for Cuyahoga County’s drug court. He thought Joan should have been named. So he wrote a column rapping those who made a decision he didn’t like.

Being able to chastise politicians from the editorial page of the Plain Dealer represents significant power. It ought to be clearly without possible self-interest.

Roger Synenberg is a politically powerful Republican although he spreads his money to Democrats, too. Roger has made $1,000 contributions to Dennis Kucinich and to the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones, both Democratic congress persons at the time. Joan has also contributed $1,000 to Jones.

Roger also is County Auditor Frank Russo’s lawyer in his pending high-profile justice problems. He also represents Frank Guttadauria, who got an unusual probation, which he recently broke and was returned to jail.

So he is a politically potent lawyer.

Larkin, too, is a lawyer.

The Plain Dealer management should be very careful that Larkin’s post career doesn’t make his continued use as a political columnist a serious conflict of interest for the paper.

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Losing some male perspective....

  Thanks for making me laugh so hard :)

"sections of the paper most crucial...in danger of disappearing"

there is an interesting discourse on this very topic in The Nation last week, written by Eric Alterman: 

"And the almost universal response to the crisis--an orgy of downsizing that is destroying the worth of the product whose economic value it seeks to restore--demonstrates how ill equipped newspaper owners and publishers are to find a way to save themselves."

and

"Ironically, it is the sections of the paper most crucial to informed democratic discourse that are in danger of disappearing. Sports news, entertainment news, health news, fashion, celebrity and style reporting will always be with us in one form or another, because they are such delightful places to advertise." 

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090302/alterman