Despite what I say or how it seems, the folks at the Plain Dealer are very human, and listen

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Mon, 10/30/2006 - 01:07.

I had a good talk today with some folks at the Plain Dealer, and took a good read of the Sunday paper, and heard and saw lots to feel good about for the community. Best was seeing John Kuehner's article "Watch Your Step", owning the front of the business section, for environmentalism... and satisfying was seeing all the op/eds accepting this is a time of political change. But, more touching was Chris Jensen's retirement farewell. This is a time when dozens of PD writers and staffers are leaving the paper, as part of a major restructuring, and those staying on board are clearly exploring their mission, value and purpose.

While it is easy to blame the PD ownership for leveraging their monopoly position in the community to drive their commercial agenda, which they do, and it is important to challenge ops and eds for balance, which is intentionally lacking, but rarely do we see the human side of the paper and realize these are common folk, like you and me. I think, in most cases, that is because the writers hide behind a persona... "I am liberal"... "I am conservative"... "I am a journalist". But, increasingly, I see the PD people as people, and the PD as part of a one sided dialog where the PD is listening. Who is talking, is what has really changed.

As long as there have been newspapers, newspaper people have heard their readers talk face to face, and by mail. For around six years, the PD journalists and editors have heard their readers by email. Now, they hear their readers by blog, and that becomes part of their beat. It is not so much that a blogger posts a smoking gun the newspapers develop into a story, but that the blogsphere presents a mindset that is undeniable. In NEO, where I see this most evident is sentiment toward environmentalism (pro). The environmentalist activism is all moving on line and push and the PD sees that and realizes it is important to a growing segment of the community... they gage how important is the segment, or the issues raised, and they respond. That scenario plays out regarding all subjects, from politics to WalMart, and the PD goes to press. Bottom line, through cyberspace, the PD is written.

Consider how different that is than just a few years ago, when cyberspace was all pull and point-to-point. We are just now seeing this play out, at the same time we are seeing a complete restructuring of the organizations writing the news. I'm confident the ultimate outcome will be for the better.

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