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Plain Dealer to advise community leaders on paper's future

1:23 PM, Dec 13, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- In letters sent out Wednesday, Plain Dealer officials are inviting community leaders to a series of meetings over the next two weeks to advise them on the status of plans for the newspaper's future.

The letter reads, in part, "Recently there has been a lot of discussion in the market about the future of The Plain Dealer. As you know, rapid changes are occurring in the way people can and want to receive news and information. Here in Cleveland, our editorial and business leadership is developing a plan to maintain our same high level of journalistic quality while staying ahead of the growing demand for digital information and marketing solutions."

Invitees can choose to attend one of the 8 a.m. meetings on three dates -- Dec. 17, 19 and 20.

The letter continues, saying that the purpose is "...to give you an update on the status of our planning, hear your thoughts, and answer your questions."

The letter states that the Plain Dealer is on "a path that will bring changes, our overriding strategic objective is to remain viable and continue to be the leading source of news and information for and about greater Cleveland.  Our core journalistic values will not change.  We have a lot of planning and decision making ahead of us, but given the degree of interest in our next steps we thought it would be a good time to begin a broader discussion."

The letter is signed by Terry Egger, president and publisher; Andrea Hogben, senior vice president sales and marketing; and Debra Adams Simmons, Editor.

While community leaders are to be briefed, no similar "briefing" has been afforded Plain Dealer employees, according to employees.

Mid-afternoon Thursday, WKYC's Tom Beres asked Egger if the meetings were open for media coverage, to which Egger replied, "The meetings will not be open to media."

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has been one of only a few local leaders who has gone public with his opinion that the Plain Dealer shold continue publications seven days a week.

On Tuesday, the day before the letter went out, the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild members voted to accept the contract.

Read the story: Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild accepts agreement

Members voted to accept an agreement with the company that includes a 6-year contract extension that includes additional money needed for benefits like healthcare and pension.

According to the Guild, the agreement gives the company greater latitude to use information in the paper from other entities, such as cleveland.com, which is owned by Advance Publications, which also owns the Plain Dealer.

During talks, the Plain Dealer said it planned to cut 58 jobs -- which was not subject to negotiation. However, they said the number would have been significantly higher with no agreement. The agreement does provide a no-layoff guarantee for more than 100 journalists currently employed at the paper.

The vote did not address the newspaper cutting circulation back to a certain number of days. Other papers in other cities owned by Advance have cut back to publishing three days a week instead of seven days.

The agreement by the Guild will allow more outside content to be printed in the Plain Dealer, essentially joining forces with cleveland.com.

There is also a "Save the Plain Dealer" movement, started to keep publication to seven days a week, complete with a petition to be signed.

Related story: Save the Plain Dealer kickoff

The Save the Plain Dealer Facebook page has, as of 1 p.m. Thursday, 4,976 "likes."

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