Punched, Kicked, Spat On and Sometimes Thanked, by Paul Orlousky
The above title summarizes the life and career of TV news reporter Paul Orlousky (who retired earlier this year) in his own words. He’s penned a new memoir, and reading it not only brings back memories of news stories that Clevelanders have lived through over the last 38 years, but it also celebrates the life of a dedicated journalist who always attempted to live up to the highest calling of his profession.
With microphone in hand he asked hard questions, but didn’t engage in “gotcha” journalism, although I suppose some of the targets of his many investigations over the years might think otherwise.
The somewhat antiquated term “muckraker” is often misunderstood. It refers to the “reform-minded journalists in the Progressive Era in the United States (1890s–1920s) who exposed established institutions and leaders as corrupt.” So Orlousky really was a throwback of sorts, a crusading journalist who didn’t shrink from sticking said microphone in the face of malefactors, all the while knowing that he could get his ass kicked — or possibly worse. His chosen profession, if done right, is not for the faint of heart or weak of knees, and “Orlo,” as he is widely known, did it right.
In this engaging and entertaining 240-page tell-all, this once-intrepid reporter first gives us a touch of the back story of his life and then dives straight into some of the most memorable events in recent (as well as distant) Cleveland history. From Jimmy Dimora (whom he was friendly with at one time but still had to accurately report on during and after his downfall) to being the first newsman on the scene to break the story of the rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, to doing a series on lazy Cleveland cops — the headline read: “It’s hard to take a bite out of crime when you’ve got a mouthful of donuts” — he didn’t shy away from the controversial and wasn’t reticent about taking on the powerful.
Over the years, on occasion, some citizens — since I’m a journalist — have reached out to me for assistance in dealing with a governmental or other agency that was treating them unfairly. After vetting their complaint I would contact the entity in question in an attempt to resolve the dispute. However, if and when I hit a brick wall I would finally say to the person on the other end of the line, “Maybe I’ll ask my friend Paul Orlousky to look into this.” It always worked; I could sense the bureaucrat figuratively shitting bricks. I never told the person I was championing how I had accomplished the task … I took all of the credit for it of course. Hey, I’m not stupid, I just look this way. But now that he’s retired I probably should thank Orlo for the help his name provided.
But, alas, Orlo was not above playing the “ratings” game. One year during “sweeps week” — that period when stations are attempting to get as many eyeballs on their channel as possible since this is when ratings companies like Nielsen survey audiences to see which station(s) they are watching, and then report their findings to advertisers, who, in turn, determine where to place their products and how much they are willing to pay — he did a story on strip clubs.
Like everyone else in media he knew the drawing power of T & A … OK, if I have to spell it out for you that term means “tits and ass.” Orlo interviewed some of the “dancers” (in truth, some of the practitioners of this exotic and ancient craft stumble around the stage like clumsy sows, only baring their skin out of necessity, to keep a roof over the head and food on the table for their little piglets). But I digress; while digging into this story he discovered a universal truth: Racism abounded.
It seems as if white dudes, while they may love staring at naked bodies, don’t cotton to the idea of black dudes staring at those same white bodies … and the owners of the clubs did whatever they could — legal and illegal — to dissuade black patrons from entering their establishments. Actually, all of their actions were illegal. Orlo, in the teaser for the piece stated that he was going to “Get the naked truth.” Cute, real cute. But, in fact, it actually was a real story of a form of discrimination few knew existed. Of course, being a journalist myself I, for investigative purposes only mind you, had, over the years, been in such clubs from time to time and knew that Orlo nailed it as usual.
Anyone who relishes seeing “how the sausage is made” will have a wonderful and informative trip down memory lane in this riveting memoir; it’s a quick, easy and fun-filled read published locally by Gray & Company.