Guest Post by Roldo Bartimole

Newspapers are killing themselves.


By giving the public the same brand of coverage they’ve always been offering.

They’re stuck in the past.

Generations of journalists have been trained in the same manner. The lesson of what a news story is supposed to be. It continues day after day.

It’s known as the four “W”s of a news article.

Who What When Where. And sometimes Why.

Newspapers have been selling a so-called “objective” standard for years. It’s not subjective. Any sense of opinion is frowned upon. Just the facts. Too often then the context is missing. The truth gets distorted.

I believe this is no longer the gold standard. More is needed. It is no longer satisfying enough.

Why haven’t they changed?

The newspapers fear of the Internet is the reason. It has changed what the reading public expects. And likely wants.

Readers want more than the details of the traditional W model.

Bloggers – really simply writers in a different form and not a derisive term – have changed the formula for readers. They have required reporting to be more than “just the facts, ma’am.”

Readers want to be informed by not the simple reporting of facts but with what the writer may see, feel, and think about the subject. They want more feeling from the reporter.

The reporter is there. So that presence should be reflected in what he or she writes. The reader wants to be there, too.

I may be very prejudiced about this.

That’s because I’ve been “blogging” – reporting with a point of view – for many, many years. At least 45 years.

I believe that newspapers are making a big mistake in not taking the ball away from web sites – and blogger types – that do exactly what journalists are taught not to do. Enter the story themselves. They are part of the story simply because they are there as observers. You can’t change that.

Now not every story will lend itself to this form. But many cry out for it.

The Plain Dealer went in an opposite direction by even cutting its editorial pages from two pages to one a day. It needs to be just the opposite. Two or three pages. Instead, the paper has given us lists – of this and of that. And filler articles from other cities.

The coverage of the Dimora trial is a good example.

The Plain Dealer has had up to six reporters covering the trial in Akron.

It seems to me it has been a colossal waste of personnel and space.

And we aren’t getting much color. At least not enough. For days, maybe weeks, I wanted to know something simple. How did Jimmy Dimora looked sitting there hearing himself savaged daily? I didn’t read it.

You have to check the comments on the PD web site to get a good feel for the story. The people speak often with sharp tongues. You’ll be entertained. Sometimes even informed. Much of it, of course, is rubbish.

Those commenting have freedom. The reporters are in straight-jackets. If they revealed how they felt about the experience at the Dimora trial or what they “saw,” rather than write to the rigid formula of newspapers, we’d not only get a better picture of what is really going on but we’d enjoy reading it.

If you’ve read the reports going on day after day for weeks you pretty much know what the next day’s report will say.

There’s no fun in that.

In fact, newspapers generally are just too dispassionate. Too boring.

Even the columnists who have some freedom still hold back. You can feel it just by reading them.

They seem reluctant (fearful) to use their freedom. Give somebody who deserves it a good wallop sometimes, will ya. (Oh, forgot that’s what Tony Grossi did. Maybe that explains such caution.)

Do you think that some reporters didn’t know what creeps some of those now being paraded before the Akron jury are. That they don’t know those on trial are just a small sample of the whole. That it’s small potatoes.

I’d love to hear the reporters’ conversations rather than read their articles.

I found as a reporter at the PD that the stories told in conversation were rarely the stories I read in the next morning. They got sanitized.

I enjoy reading comments these days on Brent Larkin’s columns.

Here’s one mocking observation that shows many readers know what’s going on:

“You folks quit pointing out Larkin’s role as the Cuyahoga County ‘Enabler.’ Even if he did wear a skirt for Mike White, Gerald McFaul, Russo, Dimora, Mason, etc., if you point that out the Reader Representative will chastise us next week for doing so and Larkin will pull out another praise the Sixties politicians to distract us.”

Now that’s entertaining and insightful. The PD reader shows he knows Larkin and what “ombudsman” Ted Diadiun is all about.

Another one:

“Larkin pontificates while conveniently ‘forgetting’ the colossal failures – if not abject complicity – of himself and this newspaper in preserving a corrupt status quo. Larkin and this newspaper disregarded red flags, ignored whistle blowers and kept on endorsing corrupt candidates.”

Someone hasn’t picked up on Larkin’s private jet trip, along with George Forbes and who knows what other pols, on Dick Jacobs’s private jet. They took a little jet set to New York for an All-Star game. Talk about conflicts. Think Larkin’s going to write honestly about this corporate creep who took Cleveland for costly rides.

Larkin should have been fired immediately. But then editor Doug Clifton looked the other way.

The paper was part of the disgusting political culture and remains so.

It’s part of why there is so little regard and trust in the main source of information in our city.

Pretty pathetic.

Larkin, retired, continues to appear on the Sunday editorial page while the newspaper can’t afford to pay its regular staff.

The truth is that the PD does allow one voice to speak with passion and force. That’s Kevin O’Brien. (As if the paper invited the John Birch Society to its editorial board.)

He seems to attract most letters to the editor, too. That must say something even though most of the letters sort of question O’Brien’s mental state.

Let’s have more analysis and comment that tells a bit of the truth.

People might read the newspaper again. Even buy it.


Roldo Bartimole – Roldo is the original Ohio political blogger.  On his 35th birthday and the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated he quit his job at the Wall Street Journal and began to work on what would be a 3 decade project in “Point of View”.  Cleveland Magazine called him “the poor man’s Tom Paine.” John Wicklein of Progressive referred to him as “Cleveland’s Gadfly.” From 1968 to 2000 iconoclastic journalist, Roldo Bartimole, rocked Cleveland’s political boat with his biweekly newsletter.  Full bio