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The Plain Dealer cuts staff and delivery services

April 11th, 2013

With the rise of the Internet, print media has been struggling more and more to compete with the instant gratification that online news and information sources offer. It seems that almost no city has been untouched, including Cleveland.

The company that owns The Plain Dealer, Advance Publications, has been making cuts to its newspapers across the board this year, and the new changes are in response to the growing concerns that electronic media is overtaking print media in a way that is requiring newspapers to cut back.

Months ago, The Plain Dealer announced that they were going to have to lay off workers and reconsider their printing and delivery schedules. This news alarmed many, as concern for Cleveland’s daily paper grew. As more information was received, the people of Cleveland learned the negotiation process was most likely going to be long and drawn out, but Advance Publications has finally reached a decision.

On April 4, The PD announced that it is going to continue printing seven days a week, but home delivery is going to be cut down to three days a week. The days the newspaper will be delivered is still being determined, but Sunday will be one of those days. The changes in the delivery schedule will start later this summer. The PD will still be available, in print, at thousands of locations across Cleveland.

In addition to home delivery being cut down, one-third of the newsroom staff will be cut. The layoffs were announced in February and then originally scheduled for May, but are now being pushed back to later this summer.

The changes are not just limited to The PD. In order to meet the demands of the local readers and advertisers, a new company is being formed that is going to partner with The PD. The Northeast Ohio Media Group is going to begin this summer to focus on the digital aspects of the newspaper, including all ad sales and marketing and the management of Cleveland.com.  Andrea Hogben, current senior vice president of sales and marketing at The PD, will take over as president of the new company.

Together with The Plain Dealer Publishing Company, the Northeast Ohio Media group is going to everything for both the print and digital services of the newspaper. The two companies will have the biggest news-gathering operation in the region and 10 times the number of journalists than any other local media outlet. The Plain Dealer Publishing Company indicated that their current combined print and digital audience is bigger than ever. The company thinks that the new digitally centered company is an important investment in the newspaper’s future.

With the creation of the new company, The PD also announced that they would be offering an enhanced e-edition of the newspaper, free of charge, to all of their subscribers. The e-edition looks just like the printed newspaper but can be accessed on a variety of technological devices, including smartphones. The e-edition of the newspaper will be available for purchase by anyone, including those who do not wish to receive The PD to their homes. Cleveland.com will also be enhanced to provide readers across the country with updated and important news from Cleveland and the surrounding areas.

When asked what they thought about the changes to The PD, students acknowledged the importance of newspapers in cities such as Cleveland. Sophomore Rachel Distler said, “Cleveland, being the city that it is, should have a daily newspaper. There are constantly new developments being made here and around the world that the people of Cleveland should know about. The city is desperately trying to build itself back up. If the city is looking to gain businesses and tourism, a daily newspaper would be very helpful in strengthening the community and credibility of Cleveland.”

Sophomore Tim Ficke also expressed his concern. “I think it is important for Cleveland to have a daily paper. It is a very convenient way for people in the city and surrounding area to get to know what is going on news and event-wise in their city,” he said.

He continued, “Newspapers give different and more holistic views on things, which often times the news media does not.”

Distler added, “I believe that newspapers and journalism will always be relevant. There will always be a market for it, because there are people who believe information more when they see it on paper.”

Some professors seemed to disagree with how The PD dealt with the crisis. Carrie Buchanan, assistant professor in the Tim Russert Department of Communications and Theatre Arts, said, “The company that now owns The Plain Dealer has shown, through the very secretive way it is carrying out major changes in its own procedures, that it cares little for public input.”

While some are angered about the cuts and changes to The PD, students seem to think that they did the best they could with a difficult situation.

Distler said, “Although it is disappointing that The Plain Dealer will not be delivering daily, they are still continuing to print daily, which gives Clevelanders the opportunity to pick up a paper everyday. The Plain Dealer is not shutting down, they are just changing their format to get back on their feet again.”