Throughout Plunderbund’s nearly decade-long run, we’ve been proud of our ability to break the news, make the news and, when necessary, correct or criticize the “news” being generated by Ohio’s large, legacy media outlets.
This year was no exception…
First Some Good News Coverage From Around Ohio
We don’t always get credit for breaking stories, being first out of the gate or influencing media coverage and the stories of other reporters, even though we make an extra effort in our coverage to ensure we are giving credit where credit it due. Still, there were a number of exceptions this year…
The Canton Repository published an editorial supporting our lawsuit against the Kasich administration and our claim that records related to threats against the governor are public records. The editorial board criticized the Kasich administration and the Ohio Supreme Court for “undermining the intent of the public-records law.” And both Karen Kasler of Ohio Public Radio and Matt Bruning of 700 WLW radio took the time to discuss the details of the lawsuit as part of their coverage of the story.
Marilou Johanek of the Toledo Blade wrote a great piece denouncing Kasich’s choice of Richard Hodges as health director, giving Plunderbund full credit for catching Hodges altering his resume to appear more qualified. “[Plunderbund] posted a screenshot of Mr. Hodges’ LinkedIn page indicating nothing in his background related to public health,” wrote Johanek. “Then — voila! An updated screenshot of Mr. Hodges’ LinkedIn profile suddenly appeared.”
The Associated Press was leaked information about the forced resignation of Mary Taylor’s chief of staff, but they did us right in their story, crediting Plunderbund with making the record request that revealed the potentially illegal behavior. “Taylor’s office became aware of Johnson’s timesheet irregularities several weeks ago while responding to a public records request made in April by the Democratic-leaning blog Plunderbund,” wrote the AP.
And our story about the Plain Dealer removing a video of Kasich picked up some national attention with Talking Points Memo, Joe Romenesko, Wonkette, Think Progress and Rachel Maddow all picking up the story about Kasich, the PD and Plunderbund.
And… Not So Good News
In the not-so-good category, Cincinnati.com’s Community Press was forced to ban a guest writer after it was revealed that he “borrowed” very large, unedited excerpts from multiple Plunderbund posts. And a few weeks back we discovered that the Athens Messenger had taken a Plunderbund article by John Michael Spinelli and published it in-full in their print edition without permission.
Also in the not-so-good news category: The Northeast Ohio Media Group and The Columbus Dispatch.
Then There’s The Cleveland Plain Dealer / Northeast Ohio Media Group (NEOMG)
The Northeast Ohio Media Group (NEOMG) bought the Cleveland Plain Dealer a few years back. They quickly fired a bunch of the experience and mostly-unionized staff, and moved a large chunk of the others to the non-union shop at Cleveland.com. They also reduced delivery of the print version of the paper to four days a week. Without a doubt this has lowered the quality of their content as inexperienced writers are given more important tasks, the few remaining writers with any talent are forced to shove square pegs of punditry into ill-fitting holes, and editors are expected to elevate stories of minor significance into link bait for web advertisers.
It remains to see whether these are just the growing pains of a viable new media business strategy, or the early signs of the end for the once-great Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Speaking of business strategies, tthe NEOMG/PD found itself facing a whole new set of problems in 2014 when they decided to publish, then remove video of an editorial interview involving both John Kasich and his Democratic opponent Ed FitzGerald.
Our reporting on the removal of the awkward video, showing John Kasich acting like a spoiled and petulant child, helped shine a spotlight on the sway Kasich and his henchmen have over Ohio’s mainstream media, especially at the newly-reimagined Cleveland Plain Dealer .
But it was our reposting of a short clip of the video, which NEOMG eventually admitted to removing from their website after complaints from John Kasich’s staff, that really got the story rolling. Within hours we received legal threats from NEOMG‘s Vice President of Content Chris Quinn, which we then posted on Plunderbund. The result? The story went national with Think Progress, Rachel Maddow and many other outlets reporting on NEOMG’s disastrous handling of the situation and the legal threats against Plunderbund.
Quinn waited until after John Kasich was reelected to offer an explanation on why he had pulled the highly embarrassing video of the Governor. Sadly, the explanation was too little, too late and seriously downplayed the fact that Kasich’s staff had complained about the video right before Quinn pulled it from general circulation. Quinn later went on to blame Plunderbund for politicising the issue. (Stay classy, Chris)
And We Can’t Forget The Columbus Dispatch
The Columbus Dispatch had another banner year in 2014, with Dispatch Editor Ben Marrison proudly parading his allegiance to Team Kasich and the Ohio GOP up and down the editorial page. It’s hard to tell if his overzealousness is a mandate from his Wolfe Family overlords, or just a not-so-secret man crush, but we’ve seen nothing but editorial after glowing editorial about the amazing, awesome awesomeness of Governor John Kasich throughout 2014. At each turn, we’ve tried to keep Ben and his team honest.
Earlier this year, Marrison signed up to help host a fundraiser for Republicans in Franklin County. He was later forced to pull out after we, and some other media outlets, raised a stink. He also deleted an entire article about a sexual harassment issue in Mike DeWine’s office written by a veteran reporter, actively ignored a huge charter school scandal and wrote an entire editorial decrying the loss of access to public records in Ohio without ever once mentioning the fact that Kasich and Ohio’s Republican legislators have waged a non-stop war on government transparency.
We also pointed out that the Dispatch’s endorsement of Kasich was nothing more than a list of long-ago debunked Kasich talking points, with an even longer list of exclusions that would-be voters ought to know about. We hammered them on their union-busting propaganda. And we slammed them for being the only major media outlet in the state to editorialize in favor of limiting access to the polls for low-income and minority voters.
We watched in awe as they ignored their own news coverage a major campaign finance scandal, and went on to endorse Josh Mandel.
We did our best to let readers know when Dispatch editors were burying stories Ohioans really needed to know about.
And we mocked their out-dated mail-in poll and then laughed as Ben Marrison wrote an entire editorial defending his poll against our criticism, including quotes from our critical piece, without ever once mentioning Plunderbund by name.
From this “left-wing political blog”: Stay classy, Ben.