March 19th, 2013

Roldo Bartimole writes:

Okay Plain Dealer reporters: the outlook is dark and tragic. No easy way to put it.

So take advantage of the Newhouse family’s bad situation of caring more about making money than serving the public.

If they’re going to go to three days start now producing some hard hitting stuff that tests management’s mealy-mouthed approach to informing the public.

Let’s see some hard hits.

People are hungry for it. They know they’re not getting it. They know the papers are too frightened to turn up the heat on the 1 percent and the rest of the wealthy. They know you’re a friend of the powerful, not the weak. It’s not hard to figure out. That’s why the paper has lost 166,000 since 1994 and continues to lose support.

Stop giving free rides to so-called leaders. Where have they gotten us?

Let’s get into the most impoverished parts of Cleveland where people are suffering and tell their stories. Go to the people who try to meet some of these needs, whether they are social workers or radicals and find the stories. They’re out there. There’s suffering. Plenty enough to fill pages. Cultivate the voiceless people. Give them a voice.

Insist on covering these stories. Demand you be allowed. Force your editors to face the fact that you haven’t been doing the job. I’m told that the top editors don’t even talk with you, fearful apparently of the reaction they’d receive from people who feel doomed.

Editorial page people get rid of your boss, Betsy Sullivan. Tell her to go back to doing what she did well – covering international stories. As the editorial boss she hasn’t shown the spunk and drive that’s needed. The editorials too often put you to sleep. Where’s the inspiration. Too many people get away with too much chicanery in this town. Why do you put up with a Kevin O’Brien, a right-wing propagandist for so far out of the mainstream as to be a constant embarrassment to all but members of the John Birch Society?

God, the paper is out of sync with the population and reality. A twin disaster.

How many times will you allow Mayor Frank Jackson to tell the community “it is what it is” or “if they’re in the box” okay; “if out of the box” they pay? This foolishness has to end. The city’s asleep.

Get rid of Brent Larkin. He’s been the voice of the Establishment for years. Yes, he’s knowledgeable with the best of institutional memory at the PD. But too many wrong, misleading memories. He gets his inside tales from the same bunch of tall tale tellers that have kept Cleveland backward for years. He listens to the same old pols who have kept new people, new voices from rising. The Forbes, Pinkneys, Stokeses still call shots.

Where’s the new blood? There will never be any if give voice to the same old people with the same old self-interests.

The paper changes reporters on various beats so that, I assume, they don’t become too cozy with those they cover. Larkin has been cozy with the same leaders for 30 or more years.

You have so many good people. Let them go do something of value!

They are hog-tied or relieved of tough-mindedness.

How else could the lowlifes who the FBI finally tracked down get away with what they did so blatantly for so many years if those most in the know didn’t pursue the obvious?

How else could the sweet deals for stadiums, downtown developments obtain their selfish deals?

How else could the foundations – Cleveland, Gund and a host of others – determine what and who should lead and where, if not for absent truth-telling by the paper? When was the last time you ever read a word of criticism of these so-called philanthropic leaders? Yet problem after problem they’ve supposedly addressed get worse, year after year.

The Cleveland school decisions have been dominated for decades by these people. Now they’re the reformers. Can’t you see what’s in front of you?

Get off your asses and do the groundwork and demand that your editors allow some tough reporting to get into the paper.

How did Dick Jacobs get away with peddling that rotted corner at E. 9th Street to the County at great cost without a word of severe public rebuke? How did the school administration building get sold for a pittance when it obviously is the best site in town? Do we even know what’s going to be built on the adjacent land?

I once watched Jacobs go into City Hall with a black garbage bag holding his Public Square project – the one that remains a parking lot west of Public Square – and ask for $120 or so million in subsidies and never did anyone at the paper rightly mock his audacity. Jacobs walked by the reporters and cameramen after the Council meeting without even acknowledging a public duty to speak to the people he was asking millions of public dollars.

The sports owners do the same thing. Never challenged.

How could he and so many others get away it? Weak, timid reporting.

(For a hint, see.)

Smiling at the truth instead of telling it. Shout it out.

Tax gift after tax gift was given to the Jacobs, Carneys and Miller-Ratners with no public scrutiny. They played it only as Progress in the paper. No costs ever seem to get in the mix.

Former Sen. George Voinovich with Council President George Forbes turned on the spigot of tax abatements that flowed – and some still flow – with no accounting of how much it has cost the city and especially the Cleveland school system.

They gave away priceless land at Chagrin Highlands, secretly to Jacobs. Both Forbes and Voinovich had to know. Did know.

Even today no PD reporter has made the effort to tote up the cost of abatements, about 60 percent of revenue taken from the Cleveland schools.

We only hear the propaganda of the Greater Cleveland Partnership about the benefits to the community of all these projects. Never the costs.

Why is Joe Roman’s voice so important that he gets to tell us what’s good for us every time?

All a reporter has to do is go to the County building and find out what the cost of abatements has been in the past 25 years – from downtown buildings to subsidized sports venues.

Is that too much to ask of a newspaper?

Newspapers are not going out of business simply because of new technology. They have lost the confidence of the people. They feel ill-served. And they are!

The largest section of the papers is devoted to sports. Roman circuses.

Well, maybe people are tired of games. Maybe they want what the old Cleveland Press once promised, “Give light and the people will find their own way.”

We live in relative darkness here. Reporters, you are responsible.

(*The moment came shortly after 1 a.m. on 19 December 2009…)

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