KLEZMER GUY: Keep the Plain Dealer dealin’

By Bert Stratton

In 2006 I spent $16,000 on classified ads at the Plain Dealer. I’m a landlord.  I listed apartments for rent.

In 2007 I spent zero at the Plain Dealer.  My plumbing and hauling costs weren’t free.  Nothing was free.

No, my ads were.

Craigslist, that’s 21st century-speak for free lunch.

If only my father had lived to see Craigslist — a free lunch in the business world — he would have died.

Yesterday [Dec. 4] Steven Newhouse, the chairman of Advance.net (which owns the Plain Dealer), said he is laying off at least one-third of the Plain Dealer  editorial staff next year. And he is also considering reducing the days of publication.

The dailies with the catchiest, folksiest names – the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Plain Dealer get clobbered.  (Newhouse also owns the Times-Picayune, which scaled back to three days a week.)

Several years ago, I attended a Plain Dealer editorial meeting because it was open to the public. The head editor and other editors introduced themselves.  It was very homey, very Midwestern.

A friend of mine used to pick up a Newhouse family member at Burke Lakefront Airport every month and drive him around to his Cleveland holdings (Plain Dealer and Sun News). Things ran smoothly back then, pre-Internet. The Newhouse family had little debt and didn’t meddle, my friend said.

My Plain Dealer contacts were Misty, Betty, Jennifer.  They were the “Section 41-West” ad takers.  These women handled hundreds of ads and phone numbers.  Frankly, they botched up a lot.  Classifieds were agate type and too much detail for humans.

I never did master the classified haiku.  Not poetry: “Lakewood 1 bdrm, $500, clean, free heat, natural wood, newly decorated.”

John Mangels, Plain Dealer science reporter, wrote on Facebook yesterday [Dec. 4], “It’s time now to demand that Steve Newhouse come to Cleveland and answer to his customers. The Plain Dealer may be a privately held company, but it belongs to the public. And that public deserves a strong voice in the decisions The Plain Dealer’s absentee corporate owners and local managers are making behind closed doors about the newspaper’s and the community’s future.”

I wrote Steve Newhouse an email. I said, “Keep the Plain Dealer dealin.’”

He wrote back, “I appreciate your input.  As I am sure you are aware, rapid changes are occurring in the way people want to receive news and information — not only in Cleveland but globally . . .”

True enough.

I have subscribed to the Plain Dealer for decades.  That counts for something.

I’m not sure how much.  Not $16,000 much.  That’s the problem.


Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy. He knows about the band biz and — check this out — the real estate biz too. So maybe he’s really Klez Landlord. You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. His blog Klezmer Guy (http://YiddisheCup.com/blog) has a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets. Klezmer Guy was a reporter for Sun Newspapers. He has written for Rolling Stone, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the New York Times. He won two Hopwood Awards.

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