Friday, March 12, 2010

The Plain Dealer: What Do They Know, When Do They Know It, and What Do They Do About It?

With apologies to the alternative weeklies, Cuyahoga has essentially been a one-newspaper community since the controversial closing of the Cleveland Press in 1982. By default, the Plain Dealer became our town’s newspaper of record. It represents us whether we like it or not. So its deteriorating coverage and declining editorial standards, compounded by increasing arrogance, is a cause for both anger and sadness.

But even as a hopelessly habituated newspaper reader, I find myself challenged to explain how the Plain Dealer has failed to publish the fact that one of the community’s most prominent citizens — Bill Patmon — a major candidate in the recent Cleveland mayoral race, is now running for the Ohio House in District 10.

Patmon filed his petitions at 9AM on Friday, February 18. An experienced and canny politician, he no doubt had political reasons for pulling his petitions anonymously and waiting until the last day of filing. But the story is not Patmon’s campaign. It is why the Plain Dealer has failed for three weeks to inform its readers that Bill Patmon is challenging incumbent Robin Belcher and longtime Cleveland city councilman Roosevelt Coats in the May primary.

The Plain Dealer has often bestowed favorable coverage upon the voluble Patmon in the past, so we do not presume in any way that their failure to report his candidacy represents any sort of bias. Rather it seems to us an arrogance of power and a disdain for its readers, especially those who live within House District 10, an area comprising parts of downtown Cleveland as well as inner-city neighborhoods both east and west.

Sloppy or hurried reporting could have accounted for the initial failure to report Patmon’s candidacy. If the story was reported solely online at the paper’s website, as is happening with greater frequency, then readers should be told what they can no longer expect in the increasingly lightweight print edition.

But consider that three weeks after the filing deadline, and after two calls from Patmon to a reporter, and even several days after interviewing Patmon and his rivals in their editorial suite, the paper has not deigned to provide its readers — many of whom are without online access — an accurate list of the candidates.

We would be interested in knowing if our readers have other instances of significant omissions in coverage.

P.S. At the time of this posting, our call to the reporter had not been returned [o.k., it was only a few minutes ago.] If we get a reply, we’ll let you know.