As it has for years, the Plain Dealer again showed up at our house Sunday. Sort of. The big story of the day was the Plain Dealer itself, pitched at the fortissimo level of a successful Mars landing by Rand Paul or the triumphant return of LeBron James or Gov. John Kasich, whichever comes first.
These are the moments when a newspaper’s brass gets a byline or two to persuade you in a neighborly way that whatever else you may have heard, the emergence of a new Plain Dealer avatar will serve your every need over morning coffee while attached to some form of invisible digital umbilical cord.
The rollout of the delivered Sunday version was the adrenalized prelude to the PD’s absence from our mailbox on Monday, one of three weekdays when it won’t be delivered now and maybe forever. (I said three days, but Saturday will bring us a “bonus” that I cannot yet describe unseen.) In a lettered black-on-Nile green fanfare, an unidentified wordsmith who’s always around for these occasions was paid to tell us that we are now in the era of a “reimagined” Plain Dealer.
Like the new home delivery matrix, the paper’s presence itself also will be divided. The print edition will be available on line and at newsstands seven days a week. The digital version is 24/7. Mobile apps will also keep you up to date on LeBron and …LeBron.
The Sunday project – and it truly was a project – was a team effort. Celebrity columnist Regina Brett wanted us to know that she would still be writing aSunday column. She said she gave up her in-house job voluntarily last week because she wanted to save another staffer’s job. But she guaranteed us that she would still be visible to her many readers:
“Last week, I took a voluntarily [sic] layoff from the Plain Dealer, but I will still write columns for the Plain Dealer. The plan is for my column to appear every Sunday and more often when needed,” she said in an unsparing sugury ode to the PD. She called it a “win-win-win-win decision” after “much prayer and reflection” – wins for her, her family, the paper and colleagues. The out-of-work-colleagues, too? Imagine that one!
Did I mention that the staff was cut by upward of 50 jobs one way or the other by dead reckoning layoffs and “voluntary” retirements. Even worse, in a brutal exercise of front-office mentality, the staffers had to sit by the phone for two hours the other night to learn from the company whether they still had a job. (Full disclosure: I at least got a free lunch from a Beacon Journal boss when he wanted to inform me that the time had come.)
And so as the once-mighty Plain Dealer whose editorials and news coverage once roared across the state is now making a major concession to the digital age, we must ask what’s next. There are no finalities in the publishing business these days. The PD is playing its endgame which doesn’t always turn out the way anyone expected. Advance Publications, its owner, tried the three-day-a week delivery in New Orleans at the Times-Picayune and I’ve read that it was such a disaster the paper is back to home delivery seven s days a week.
Is anybody having any fun yet reimagining things?