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Save The PD

November 15th, 2012

During my high school years – before I got my driver’s license – my dad drove me to school on his way to work. We spent each morning eating breakfast together at the kitchen table. In between the slurps of cereal, we each had a section of the daily newspaper spread over our halves of the table. At the time, I would thoroughly comb the sports pages, while my dad covered the front section and opinion pages.

Reading the newspaper every day is still a tradition of sorts in our family. Now, my parents take it with them to work, where they spend their lunch hour getting caught up on everything in the community.

I tend to believe that families across America still pick up a newspaper at the breakfast table each morning with their coffee. These days, rather than a print edition, many across the country get their newspaper on an iPad.

Personally, I prefer a print newspaper. I like being able to flip the pages of the newsprint when I read. I also think layout of physical newspaper is more visually pleasing. Can I access updated news more quickly online? Sure, but I still enjoy reading print five days a week here at school (seven days when I’m home). We students can pick up print editions of The Plain Dealer for free at various locations on campus.

But we may no longer have the option of reading a physical newspaper in Cleveland. The company that owns The Plain Dealer has already reduced printing and home delivery at other newspapers it owns – most notably The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, The Post-Standard in Syracuse and The Patriot News in Harrisburg, Pa. (which just won a Pulitzer Prize for its relentless reporting on the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State).

Reporters and staff members at The Plain Dealer are starting to see the writing on the wall. Luckily, they’ve begun to start pushing back.

Starting Sunday, employees at The Plain Dealer kicked off a campaign to keep the newspaper printing and delivering seven days a week. They took out a half-page ad in Sunday’s edition.

“You’ve probably noticed that we’re not what we used to be. The paper is smaller. Suburban bureaus have closed. Layoffs and unfilled vacancies have reduced our non-management newsroom staff from about 350 in the late 1990s to fewer than 175 today,” the ad read. “For the last three years, we’ve voluntarily cut our pay, to preserve the remaining news staff and to keep the paper strong.”

While the business model is moving more towards the Web, we are not completely there. Many readers continue to pay for a print newspaper. Ironically, The Plain Dealer is one of the top 20 newspapers in the country in terms of circulation.

I’m not sure how a city of over 390,000 residents and metro area with many thousands more can function properly without a newspaper that prints an edition seven days a week. “We’re really worried about what will happen to Northeast Ohio when nobody’s watching,” the half-page ad read.

Unlike television and radio, in which reporters have a limited amount of time to fill, newspaper reporters focus on the details. Their writing comes with a challenge: conveying the facts with the proper words and making the story seamlessly flow. A newspaper needs the proper amount of people to write, research, fact-check, proofread and create the layouts.

Could I read the news online? Absolutely. The Web is an outstanding supplement to the print product, but it cannot replace it. A physical newspaper shows me what the most important stories are by where they’re laid out. I’m more likely to read a story first on the front page than the second page of the metro section. I don’t get that same understanding of story importance on the Web.

Don’t let the local paper go partially dormant; “like” the “Save The Plain Dealer” Facebook page.

Let the tradition continue across thousands of breakfast tables in Northeast Ohio. Keep The Plain Dealer printing every day.