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The Plain Dealer will switch to a centralized production system, but will continue to edit local stories locally

December 27, 2018

The Plain Dealer will switch to a centralized production system, but will continue to edit local stories locally

CLEVELAND - The Plain Dealer has been a vital part of Cleveland since 1842. To remain vital, we must overcome challenges that threaten our entire industry. We must find ways to operate more efficiently while maintaining the quality of the newspaper and the depth of our reporting. We take that duty seriously, because we realize that reporting like ours is critical to a healthy democracy.

Local reporting is the most visible service our staff provides, but a considerable share of our newsroom specializes in the essential behind-the-scenes work of editing and designing the pages that contain our local, national, and international news. They do this using an age-old model of production – a small team of skilled craftspeople responsible for every page of every edition. They do a magnificent job, under intensely demanding conditions.

Over the past decade or so, improvements in technology have made it possible for groups of newspapers around the country to pool their resources, especially on pages of national and international news, sports, or features. This concept has been tested industry wide, and has proven to be both efficient and effective. It allows local newsrooms to focus their editing efforts on their local journalism, which means quality can be sustained at lower cost.

The Plain Dealer began in October to explore the question of whether we, too, could benefit from such production efficiencies. We solicited bids from companies that specialize in centralized production services, and invited the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild to discuss keeping production local. We have carefully reviewed all those proposals, including an offer from the Guild, and have chosen to contract with Advance Local for production of The Plain Dealer.

Regrettably, this transition to a centralized production system will mean the loss of 29 jobs within The Plain Dealer’s newsroom, sometime after March of 2019. Some new jobs will be created in Cleveland for the editors who will edit The Plain Dealer’s local stories as part of that system. Members of The Plain Dealer’s production staff will be able to apply for those jobs. In addition, we will discuss with the Guild the impact of this decision on bargaining unit members and how best to help affected employees transition to other work.

The savings this system offers The Plain Dealer will come largely from sharing the cost of editing and designing pages of non-local news, which make up roughly half of our newspaper. In all other ways, The Plain Dealer will remain a local institution. Editorial decision making will remain the responsibility of The Plain Dealer’s editors. Local stories will be selected and copy-edited by veteran journalists based in Cleveland.

We make this decision with some sadness, but with the long-term preservation of The Plain Dealer at heart. This change offers savings where they are least likely to harm the quality of our newspaper. It preserves local editing of local stories. It allows us to focus on the coverage that matters most to our community: in-depth breaking news, investigative journalism, stories that explain issues and events, and coverage that helps people make the most of everything northeast Ohio has to offer. In a world of difficult choices and unavoidable change, this is the option that best serves our readers.

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