Judging the PD & Editor Goldberg

Submitted by Roldo on Tue, 05/06/2008 - 12:34.

A few thoughts on our morning newspaper as it struggles for relevance.

You have to give credit to Plain Dealer Editor Susan Goldberg. She does have moxie that has often been missing in our morning newspaper.

I don’t like the tabloidization of the front page. I think it goes too far in over-playing stories simply for dramatic effect. It has a cartoonish quality.

This morning’s photograph of the scowling face of state attorney general Marc Dann measured eight inches long by 5-1/2 inches wide.  About the same space was given to other public officials who were asking Dann to resign. The front-page article on the issue, on the other hand, was short. It measured about three and a half inches deep and three columns wide.

The only redeeming factor of this display – at least the entire front page wasn’t devoted to LeBron and the Cavs. There’s always tomorrow, however, as the Cavs face off with the Boston Celtics tonight. LeBron got a couple of inches atop Page One.

Goldberg showed some guts in the Joanna Connors personal piece Sunday. The PD reporter described her rape and the resulting trauma in a 16-page, no-ads section on Sunday. “We risk offending some readers in the hope that Joanna’s story will help other sexual-assault victims grapple with their own trauma and misdirected self-blame, and find ways to heal,” Goldberg wrote in an unusual front page message to PD readers. While it may have been more than anyone wanted to read, it was a dramatic presentation and made some important points for the public.

Along with the “guts” to do this in a rather conservative city, Goldberg shows that she’s determined to make her name here. The last editor, Doug Clifton, earned his journalistic honors by finally allowing reporters to go after Mayor Michael White. It spelled the end of White’s long era at City Hall.

Goldberg is showing similar toughness with political coverage. She used a full op-ed page to deal with the tiff her reporters had with County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora. Then she allowed highlighted display of Councilman’s Joe Santiago’s dealing with bar problems in his ward and unusual attention to the dog problems of Councilman Roosevelt Coats and his wife.

No one could have as undistinguished a career as Coats and his long service testifies to Council’s low stature.

The week-ago Sunday front page display of photos of patronage hires by County Auditor Pat O’Malley and the impending display of County Auditor  Frank  Russo’s patronage line-up say that Goldberg isn’t afraid to go after the politicians.

It’s good to see this kind of critical pressure on public officials, especially in a town so Democratic-dominated that these officials have become untouchable with voters.

The other aspect – reforming the system – may be more challenging to Goldberg. Many have said in the past that there are too many County office holders. The need to consolidate several offices – for example, the Recorder, Treasurer and Auditor into one non-elected department – is apparent and could eliminate many unessential employees and save needed County resources.

I did have to laugh, however, with an editorial calling upon County Commissioner Tim Hagan to lead a fight for such reforms. That’s truly pathetic. He’s been part of the problem for decades and was one of the politicians to deter similar reforms after a citizen study some years ago offered a workable plan. Hagan began his career years ago by marrying the Democratic boss’s daughter, insuring a life-time sinecure at the county.

All this monitoring of public officials is welcome.

However, Goldberg – to be anywhere near a strong, successful editor – needs to have the newspaper deal with bigger issues than a Councilman’s dog and political patronage.
On the front page also today was a piece on Ernst & Young’s impending move of 12,000 employees from what was Cleveland’s financial district – the corners of East 9th and Euclid Avenue – to the Wolstein development in the Flats.

This leaves the historic Huntington (formerly Union Commerce) bank building in jeopardy as another tenant moves to highly subsidized new digs. Where’s the advantage for Cleveland here? Anyone walking through the lobby of the Huntington views what the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History described as “the basilican halls with 38-feet high Corinthian columns and barrel-vaulted ceilings ... intended to express grandeur and permanence” with “four large murals by Jules Guerin that fill the pediments at the ends of each hall.”

Permanence in our society isn’t tolerated as we build new by government subsidy and destroy old by neglect. New development gets tens of millions of dollars of public money and the old is left to deteriorate or worse.

When will there be a Plain Dealer that deals forthrightly with Cleveland’s corporate community?

The answer: Never.

But that’s the measure we should judge Goldberg. Hitting Dimora is easy.

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Ernst & Young Wolstein marriage

  Paw through the last issue of Crain's for the quote from our downtown councilman on this deal.  I can't repeat it, it makes me want to puke.

Couldn't buy Crain's, but could borrow it

You'll appreciate this, Laura.

I got an email from Jim that the Crain's piece was out (I had been interviewed for it) so I went in search of a Crain's. I stopped at my nearest likely convenient - my favorite - at Mayfield and Coventry - but they didn't carry Crain's. So Walgreen's at Mayfield and Lee... nope. CVS at Lee past Cedar? Nope. Perhaps laying around Pheonix, further up Lee (at this point, I needed a coffee)... nope. I was not going to give up, but I didn't want to drive all the way to Beachwood, where there are more establishment markets... the gas would cost more than an online subscription for a year. And then it dawned on me... I hadn't been to the new library a block further down on Lee - the one with the bridge over Lee, designed by an architect I'm working with on a project, Marc Ciccarelli, of Studio Techne - and I knew our public libraries should have Crain's. Success. Lesson learned... just go to the library (I could have started a few blocks from home, at the fabulous East Cleveland Library!

And nice job Marc... I'll go back with a camera and share some shots of this nifty place, with little space-age kiosks for the librarians... a whole new concept, it seems.

Disrupt IT

Not having time to go back to the library right now...

Could you share the quote... please?

Disrupt IT

Knocked out

  I am at home, drifting in and out of a Benadyrl haze...manana...flowers, pretty poison for me...
the quote was something like:  we have tied the knot, now we just have to walk down the aisle...can ya see why I feel sick???

like a condominium association on steroids - now cold turkey

Laura,

You've been editing your older comments again... That's one long benadryl haze.  But it is interesting to look back at this thread in the cool light of recession. Now Goldberg looks pretty shady, not so shiny and new and she has not done (we might have guessed) what Roldo said she would have to do to be a worthwhile editor of our daily fishwrap. She didn't have to hit Dimora - the FBI did it for her. And she has not directed her reporting staff to dig deep, or even paw the surface of corruption in local politics. Eight months later, Brent Larkin and Dick Feagler are gone along with scores of other writers and staff persons. Don Rosenberg is suing the Pee Dee for age discrimination and the actual paper is about the size of a Sun News or a college newspaper many days. I see our street less littered with them as I walk the dog in the morning. 

But back to the quote about Flats Eastbank that Norm was looking for...

"one ordinance would add a new financing wrinkle that has not been seen in Northeast Ohio, a so-called “New Community Authority” that would give Wolstein Group a little more upfront public money to work with — in the range of $20 million, according to Steven Strnisha, a financial adviser to the project.

As it stands, the project is in line for about $100 million in publicly financed subsidies from the city, Cuyahoga County, the state and the federal government. That total ranges from $67 million in tax-increment financing — which allows the developer to use taxes generated by increases in the property’s value toward project infrastructure improvements — to a $1.5 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help create a riverfront public park.

Well, well... Joe sure knows how to sweet talk the taxpayers to help developers. Joe's quote: “It’s kind of like when you’re getting married, what do you do last? You put on your tux jacket and use the lint roller,” he said. “We’re getting ready to walk down the aisle.”

It seemed that taxpayers and Wolstein were about to be wed - til death do us part. But now where do we stand on that vow? Did we already hog tie ourselves to this deal? It doesn't seem like this one is, as Peter Lawson Jones (who is considering a senate run) likes to say as he defends the Medcon, "We have the money". Do we have another $20 million to GIVE to Wolfstein? The project is on hold. He's buying up his own shares. A big chunk of the Flats (30 acres) has been destroyed. The newspaper is not covering it. Does anyone know just how far the taxpayers have been inserted into this deal that's not happening? Can we pull out? Is there any other contraceptive method we could use to change our minds and not consummate this marriage? How much have we spent so far? Just how much authority have we been bound (wed?) to with this by this "New Community Authority"? Interestingly these new community assessments have been used for such projects as sewers - we could benefit from separating a few combined sewers in NEO, but noooo, we want to give that money to developers while over here (sleight of hand) we tear down perfectly rehab-able historic structures? Sometimes in 30 acres swaths.

 

Treacle

  Downtown Councilman Joe Cimperman said the developer would like about nine pieces of amending legislation to get through council by summer recess in June so that a public groundbreaking can be scheduled.

I am quoting Jay Miller, the best of Cleveland's unsung journalists.  I didn't follow up on the legislation at the time I saw this article, but you can be sure that we got a marriage made in hell, compliments of the treaclemaster Joe Cimperman.

Gloria Ferris and I attended the Planning Commission's meeting in May 2008 on the day the Treadway Creek neighborhood trail opened.  Before the commission heard and passed the NRP rezoning legislations, I had to sit through Joe Cimperman's shill job for Wolstein.  He used one of his classic lines

"Shame on us!" 

Shame on us--if we don't hand over money to a developer!...

And some people wonder why I am not part of the Joe Cimperman fan club...we don't even need to revisit his bit role in the long-drawn out Art House/Wirth House drama, which starred Sheryl Hoffman, Abe Bruckman, Merle Gordon and Emily Lipovan, among others.

Thanks, Roldo, I've noticed much the same...

Good and bad.

I am not in favor of the subsidies provided for development on the East Bank of the Flats - anything currently planned in the Flats, except Stonebridge, in general (have not reviewed their recent plans). I consider the whole Wolstein/Eaton/Tucker/Ellis/Earnst/Young one inbred disgrace, and each of these firms and their people should be ashamed for how they do business... criminal... we await the arrival of the FBI at the Port Authority.

But, I am confident there are enough smart people in NEO and beyond to recognize the value of the Huntington Bank Building and I see that developing naturally with the Rotunda and Breuer (now that it seems safe from Administration), E. 4th,  Playhouse Square, and other important and unimportant assets of that area, always part of good planning and The Plan for Cleveland.

The Flats have always been a toxic cestpool of disease, pirates and bums. People will soon live in the Huntington... see movies at the Rotunda... take the Silver Line to University Circle... all that makes good sense. Forcing the public to pay for anything Wolstein, and live in a brownfield, by a toxic river, for $300+/square foot, does not.

I give Goldberg time... she's an outsider... she's obsessed with clothes... she is being wined and dined by every CEO in town... she is under huge pressure from nasty humans like Wolstein and Stark... and she runs the paper in the poorest city in America, coming from one of the world's most prosperous places... she has a huge learning curve.

Hopefully she has discovered REALNEO and will be real... I'm sure she understands good use of tech when she sees it!

Disrupt IT

Permanence

  Permanence in our society isn’t tolerated as we build new by government subsidy and destroy old by neglect.

May I quote you Roldo?  This sums up the unspoken policy for NEO.  Our policymakers know that they can wait out the outrage and get away with these crimes against humanity.

Quote away.

Quote away.