May 17th, 2016

point of view no. 1

A friend was looking for an old clipping from a 1960 Newsweek story about the Plain Dealer.

To help I said I’d search some boxes of my old stuff. I didn’t find the clipping.

I did discover, however, a lot of memories. More than I’ll tell here.

But one I can’t resist. I reveal a few more, too.

At times you need a laugh, even if it has a cost.

I’d always been told that the Plain Dealer library (morgue) when it received a copy of my newsletter point of viǝw, to which it subscribed, would photo copy a dozen or so and place them where reporters (usually too cheap to subscribe) would pick one up to read.

In January, 1986, I got a $50 check from the PD to renew its annual subscription. That was the “institutional” price I charged.

Remembering what I’d been told about the copying, I had a friendly lawyer deliver a message of my unhappiness. With it he returned the $50 check.

And he wrote a lawyerly letter:

Enclosed please find the Plain Dealer‘s check for Fifty Dollars ($50.00). Roldo Bartimole, editor of point of viǝw, requested I return this check since it does not accurately reflect the correct subscription rate.

“Mr. Bartimole has been informed that the Plain Dealer has been making unauthorized copies of point of viǝw for free distribution to editors and others at the newspaper via your paper’s inter-department mailing system. He also has proof that additional unauthorized copies are made available to reporters and others in the Plain Dealer‘s library.”

Information provided to me indicates that these unauthorized and unlawful practices have been conducted for as long as seventeen (17) years. point of viǝw has lost considerable income through these years, and Mr. Bartimole demands that they stop immediately.

The letter, addressed to Patricia Graziano, the paper’s librarian, went on to offer a bulk rate to the PD that would enable it to receive the number of copies it was distributing for $180 a year.

Of course, I never believed that the paper would agree.

And, of course, it didn’t.

My lawyer, Peter Joy, soon received a response. It was not from the newspaper directly but from its lawyers, Baker & Hostetler.

It said,

Your letter of January 23rd to Ms. Patricia Graziano at the Plain Dealer has been forwarded to me for response.

The Plain Dealer has concluded that it does not wish to renew its current subscription.

The Plain Dealer is making no copies of ‘Point of View.’

Signed, “Yours very truly, James P. Garner.”

That’s it.

I assume it didn’t cost the PD any legal fee as Baker/Hostetler was likely on retainer.

I did hear that Ms. Graziano, being a librarian, was upset that her library was forced to censor a publication. My wife’s is a retired librarian and I knew their feelings about censoring any published material.

The paper never did renew its subscription. I also didn’t notice an uptick in individual subscriptions.

But my search into the past paid some dividends. Not financial. Merely memories. And a few more laughs.

You never know what you’re going to find when you go rummaging old boxes.

Here are a few memories I’ve preserved over the years, either published or written to me:

Roldo Bartimole? I don’t read him that often. —George Forbes, Cleveland Council President. 1979.

Everybody reads him; they may not subscribe but they’ll have a copy on their desks. —George Forbes. 1983.

In response to your “final notice” for re-subscribing to POV, I simply must tell you that I cannot bring myself to justify it. Frankly, I’m so sick and tired of reading about the rotten elements in Cleveland city affairs—George Forbes, et cetera—that I abhor the arrival of each POV… But good luck to you and I hope you don’t have any other supporters who feel as I do. —An 18-year subscriber. 1987.

And there were others as disturbed.

Thanks for your note and enclosure [piece on ethics-lacking George Steinbrenner paying striking Cleveland news people—who might do him some good later—to talk about journalism to Cleveland school children. RB] I guess it’s a rule that them as has gets. Oh, well… Yours. —Red Smith, New York Times, 1975.

I don’t know where you have the time and energy to dig up all those fascinating stories in Cleveland. You are a one-man Theodore Dreiser and muck-raking reporter. The citizens of our towns and cities have always known too little about what went on around them at City Hall and the Courthouse and police headquarters, because there was no one to tell them. I worked all those beats long ago on a paper that won a Pulitzer Prize, but the editor was fired when the publisher became embarrassed by the disclosures. If there are reforms, it will be because of guys like you. And reform has to come from the grass roots. It doesn’t start at the top and trickle down. —Tristram “Tris” Coffin, news analyst turned actor, 1972.

Things are getting a little tough? What the hell did you expect? As a renegade journalist, a poor man’s Tom Paine, you bought the ticket and you take the ride. You have been on it about three years now. You bushwhacked the political pony express riders—the guys who change faith like fast horses. You sniped at editors, the intellectual basket cases, and called fellow journalists, those who give failure a bad name, moral cripples. But this wasn’t enough. You brought in a ringer, Ridgeway of Washington, who called Nixon a liar and savaged Hickel, the paper conservationist, the liberals’ darling.


“You’re a hard man.” (Written with subscription cancellation because I insisted the Presbytery of Cleveland, Synod of Ohio of the United Presbyterian Church, pay the institutional price of $12 (at that time) instead of the individual price of $7.50.)
Signed “DM” 1974.

I think he’s a very well-intentioned zealot. —Herb Kamm, editor, Cleveland Press. 1972.

I do not want to dignify anything he says or does. —Herb Kamm, editor, Cleveland Press. 1979.

If Willie Nelson sang songs about journalists instead of cowboys, he’d be singing about Roldo.

Thomas Paine was probably a pain in the ass, too. —Terry Sheridan in story in Akron Beacon Journal. 1983

He does have a way with words.

I have read hundreds of books, academic articles, magazine accounts, and newspaper exposes on the power structures of cities around this country and I’ve never found anyone who told it any better, and with such punch, than Roldo Bartimole. l think that he has taught all of us more about Cleveland than any of the books on Cleveland and he has done so in a way that is understandable and useful as well…

Time has proven him right in his earlier assessments again and again. The pundits and the mass media have been proven wrong in their constant claims of new evidence of optimism. Let’s us hope they finally wise up and start listening to Roldo for a better sense of the future. —G. William Domhoff, Professor of Psychology & Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz and batboy, Cleveland Indians, 1951-1952.

Congratulations on your “Is Forbes Really a Hero? It’s the best yet and I would like to see it get wider circulation… I’ve been thinking seriously of writing a letter to Tom Vail to suggest the PD ask your permission to see it on their Forum page… I’ve just decided, however, that pragmatically it would be a futile effort. —Clay Sutton, my former boss at the Wall Street Journal, 1978.

That’s enough down memory lane for now.

By Roldo Bartimole…


  1. Michael Fiala says:

    While walking down memory-row, let’s say the old public square, near Tom Johnson’s statue, before the garish, expensive, un-needed, wasteful $50million makeover, I thought of my own experiences with your writings.

    Your writings.

    I’m enraged. I’m engaged. I mourn. I smile. I quote. I find painful truths.
    (And I even organize.)

    I can’t thank you enough.

    For the unveiling! Another word, in greek, apocalypse. – unveiling or seeing through.

    When growing up in Cleveland, I had an intuition that something was amiss, something wrong with what was happening in this town. The intuition grew, the things wrong felt deeper and more ill than I could imagine.

    When I finally came across your writings, probably in the Free Times, they were hard-hitting, not pulling punches politely. Prophetic in the Hebrew tradition. Calling the rulers/leaders to account, unpacking their half-truths, the machinations of the rich and powerful.

    I was stunned. How does he know this? How does he get away with this? … It was a revelation, indeed. A relentless jeremiad. (And we know what Jeremiah prophesied.)

    Here was a voice, from another place, speaking.

    I am forever grateful.

    And I even subscribed.

    Like Dan Kerr’s book, Derelict Paradise, in an entirely different way, the world can never be the same in Cleveland, because of your writings.

    It’s about ‘how the world works’ … How it works…. in Cleveland.

    When you see ‘again’ or ‘see through’ …you can’t really walk away from it .. unless you choose to lie to yourself.

    The $50 million dollar Public Square project .. reported as on budget in Saturday’s plain dealer of April 30….. and thereafter in PD. What rubbish.

    It was called a $30million project a year ago, and you unpacked the numbers then and predicted it was upwards of $40million plus ….. ‘connecting the dots.’

    And now the expensive programming .. to hype downtown. .. w a pink elephant to play to the RNC.

    Some words remain no matter when they were said, because they tell the story with plain truth.
    Such words endure.

    Mike Fiala

  2. Garry Kanter says:

    There’s only one rule in politics: If you get away with it, it must be OK.
    They’ve (almost) all gotten away with it, and destroyed the region in the process.
    Fuck ’em. This isn’t over yet.

  3. Norman Lange says:

    I think of Cleveland as a colony. We send $120 billion in taxes to Washington and receive $60 billion in return.

    We send taxes to Columbus to small government Republicans in Columbus. Instead of receiving services we receive diktats that we cannot make our safety forces live in the City limits; we cannot insist that contractors on public projects use some local residents; we could not take action on predatory lending.

    Corporate “leaders” make fortunes in Cleveland only to retire and invest their fortunes in in Naples Florida

    To me this form of looting and outside control is the definition of being a colony and your decades of reporting present the evidence

  4. Michael: I always appreciate your words.

    As I wrote to you:

    Michael, I always appreciate your words and these are especially
    moving to me. I would keep going without them but it gives
    meaning to me to read them. I thank you from my heart.

    Garry: You’re right. It ain’t over til it’s over.

    Norman: We disagree on some stuff but we certainly agree on taking and who’s doing it. Thanks.

  5. spencer wells says:

    I can’t believe now that I was a faithful subscriber, still I treasured each issue I received and continue to value your outrageous iconoclasm. Too few today meet that high standard of outrage. Love to all the bartimoles.

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