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 . . .”
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.