The Plain Dealer’s leaving the world backwards at $3 for a 4-day daily; and a $5 Sunday edition for $68 a month

CLEVELAND, OH – The feature image photo I took and published of the $3 per copy Plain Dealer and the 50 cents per copy Call & Post is from the general store that intersects at Bartlett and Lee Road in Shaker Heights.  It’s next door to Sam Sylk’s place.

The Call & Post stack looks higher because it’s much thicker than the Plain Dealer.  Look under the Call & Post and you’ll see Plain Dealer’s.  Old copies of Plain Dealer’s are stacked up under others.

The most this reader market will pay for a single copy newspaper regularly is about $2; and that’s a “hot” weekly.  Scene is smart to be free and advertising-driven.  The editorial pressure to produce hard core news was not founder Rich Kabat’s “Rock n’ Roll” business model before the Village Voice folk purchased the newspaper and “corporatized” both.  I once read the Village Voice.  I forgot it existed until I wrote the preceding sentence.

The worst event in Cleveland news history was Solomon Isadore Neuhaus’ purchase of the Plain Dealer in 1967. The entire local news industry and the quality diminished.

The entire reason for publishing newspapers on “rag” content was to keep the cost of printing down and circulation high.  Hence, the Plain Dealer’s owners should have capped its daily at 50 cents and kept its street readers.

$17 a week – $68 a month – for a newspaper is a grocery bill.  It’s two tanks of gas.  It’s a water bill.  It’s gas bill.  It’s an auto insurance payment.  For a low-income senior citizen who was raised reading newspapers and misses them, it’s $68 a month they’re not going to even think of adding to their monthly budget.

Senior citizens living on fixed incomes read newspapers.  Not the “youth.”

The Shaker Heights store owner told me both papers sold; but the Call & Post sells better.  The Plain Dealer doesn’t sell through all its copies.  Don King’s Call & Post just doesn’t have the circulation and editorial reach; although it looks and feels much more like a newspaper than the Plain Dealer even down to the Merry Christmas.

Don and Dale Edwards have done an admirable job in keeping it somewhat “traditional.”  If Don knew “the newspaper game”he’d be selling 500,000 copies across Ohio weekly instead of less than 5000 on the east side of Cleveland.

Without its elaborate network of 20,000 to 25,000 locations with clerks and office workers conditioned to accept the Plain Dealer and pay when the drivers arrive, a company purchasing the newspaper in this town will nearly have to rebuild that network from the ground up.

The other problem is that its readers don’t depend on the Plain Dealer or cleveland.com for news.  Store owners told me their customers don’t ask for it.  Another problem is the Plain Dealer’s credibility along with its newsstands, circulation and advertisers is gone.

The 350,000 daily circulation covering a 12 county survey metropolitan service area is also gone.  The 44,000 home delivery from at least the mid-1990’s is gone.  The $18,000 cost per page for advertising is about as present as a Plain Dealer news box at the corner of E. 116th and Kinsman.  The news boxes left in the 1990’s from the east side.  They’re not even on west side corners.

The “fear” of exposure politicians once had is gone.  So is most of the Plain Dealer and cleveland.com’s racist coverage of American Negroes.

A newspaper publisher could start from “scratch” and compete against the Plain Dealer today. That newspaper has absolutey “no” editorial juice.

I was mentored by Mr. William O. Walker, one of our American Negro nation’s greatest newspaper publishers and editors.  If it bleeds it leads.  That’s how, in part, you sell newspapers.  You also report the two truths.  The truth people want to read; and the truth some people don’t want others to read.

Publishers have to lead “crusades” and champion people causes through the pages of their newspapers.   They also have to share the lighter sides of life as they lead the fights for the little guy and build their businesses.  It’s all mutual.  Publishers, editors and reporters don’t become corporate tools beholden to the “princes.”  Machiavelli: 101.  Power comes “from” the people.

The newspaper business is still modeled after a man, woman or child standing on a street corner screaming, “Extra, extra read all about Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams covering up for the Target security guard’s high speed chase that killed Tamia Chapman in East Cleveland” to get your readers interested enough in reaching into their pockets for anywhere from a quarter to $1.

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