By Betty Lin-Fisher
Beacon Journal business writer
The Cleveland Plain Dealer on Wednesday eliminated approximately 50 journalists, or one-third of its newsroom staff, according to the union which represents the staffers.
The journalists were given notice Tuesday afternoon to expect phone calls Wednesday morning between 8 and 10 a.m. to be told whether to report for work or that they were laid off.
Harlan Spector, chairman of the Plain Dealer unit of Local 1 of The Newspaper Guild, said “it’s a terrible day for the newsroom employees who have been through this before in 2008 and anybody who’s been through a mass layoff knows how awful it is. Beyond that, it’s also a sad day for Cleveland journalism.
“These cuts that are taking place ... beyond the newsroom staff cuts, the other layoffs and cuts to home delivery, the disinvestment in the newspaper itself ... are a tremendous blow to the community. The community depends on its daily newspaper to deliver serious journalism. The Plain Dealer’s ability to do that has been severely compromised due to these cutbacks.”
The Plain Dealer previously announced that it would transition in August to home delivery on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays — while still printing seven days a week and beefing up its digital Cleveland.com news coverage on the Internet. The newspaper also said it would be cutting one-third of its newsroom staff. The paper said it would also have what it called a bonus edition delivered on Saturdays.
Spector said he was among a group of journalists who volunteered to be laid off, and to his knowledge, the paper was accepting those layoffs. About half of the expected 50 layoffs were expected to be volunteers.
Rollie Dreussi, executive secretary of Local 1, said he was proud of the journalists, who knew since December that their jobs could be eliminated and who “worked hard and put out a quality newspaper. These are all talented people and they deserve a lot of praise for working under those conditions.”
In a posting on its website earlier this year announcing the upcoming changes, Plain Dealer management said, “The way people can and want to receive news and information is changing rapidly. We must drive innovation, capitalize on the tremendous strengths of our existing organizations, preserve high-quality journalism and marketing solutions, and provide greater efficiency and flexibility in serving Northeast Ohio through print and digital applications.”