Shirley Smith’s reaction to the Plain Dealer’s editorial board was the same as Rev. Jesse Jackson’s when she saw its composition

There are times when circumstances affect you so much that one's silence is not an option; and this was one of those times for 11th District Congressional candidate Shirley Smith when she saw in 2021 what Rev. Jackson saw in 2018

CLEVELAND, OH – When former State Senator Shirley Smith visited the discriminatory and Russian-owned Plain Dealer / Cleveland.com for an endorsement interview she asked AdvanceOhio’s vice president, Chris Quinn, the same question Rev. Jesse Jackson asked him when he visited the editorial board in August 2018.  Where are your “Black” reporters and editors?  The Plain Dealer was purchased by child of Russian aliens Solomon Isadore Neuhaus in March 1967.  His descendants continue to operate it under the “Newhouse” name today.

Smith was promoting her candidacy for the 11th Congressional District with 11 of the other 12 candidates seeking to replace former United States Rep. Marcia Louise Fudge.  As a child and young adult during segregation and the civil rights movements of the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, Smith told EJBNEWS the feeling of the all-Caucasian endorsement meeting editorial pages editor Elizabeth Sullivan led was disquieting.

Candidates attending the Plain Dealer’s endorsement interview are saying they wasted their time meeting with Elizabeth Sullivan and cleveland.com’s damn near all Caucasian editorial team. Since the Plain Dealer’s circulation has fallen, thousands of 11th Congressional District residents don’t know of the interviews and haven’t learned who it endorsed and why.

Smith said the milieu of the Plain Dealer / cleveland.com endorsement meeting as she promoted her candidacy for Congress reminded her of a similar meeting she’d held with AdvanceOhio’s editorial board during her campaign in 2017 for mayor of South Euclid.  The reporters evaluating her bore no resemblance, ethnically, to the area.  All were Caucasian and she knew the decked was stacked against her in favor of Slovenian American Georgine Welo despite the mayor’s public controversies.  Smith asked the panel of writers if any of them were persons of color and one woman raised her hand.

In addition to voicing her concerns during the endorsement meeting in front of the other candidates, Smith wrote Quinn and Sullivan a single-page letter on June 21, 2021.  In it she described what she’d witnessed as “very offensive.”

Smith also didn’t appreciate Quinn’s verbal response that the two “Black and Brown” editorial panelists were attending a conference as Sullivan knew in advance that 12 of the 13 candidates for the job are American Negroes.  Since the vast majority of candidates were American Negroes, and the 11th Congressional District’s largest ethnic demographic is American Negro, Smith believes the newspaper and website’s workforce should have been editorially consistent.

Former State Senator Shirley Smith told EJBNEWS she couldn’t sit silent about the lack of an American Negro presence at the Plain Dealer’s editorial board interviews.

“Chris, I recently read an article you wrote about taking a look under our hood.  I really think we need to do that, get under the hood.  In addition, it is in my opinion that another forum with a panel reflective of diversity should be rescheduled immediately or scrapped the one you have in the file,” Smith wrote.

Sullivan led the editorial panel and handled the questioning over the two hour discussion between the candidates.  The Plain Dealer’s circulation is down from 450,000 a day and 7-days a week to 94,000 a day and 4-days a week.  So there was concern among some of the candidates about the number of voters in the 11th Congressional District who would actually read the $3.50 a day newspaper.

Candidates were promised by Sullivan that the forum would air unedited online to mitigate concerns about the shrunken size of the newspaper and cleveland.com website’s reading audience.   To read AdvanceOhio’s online news source, cleveland.com, requires a $100 a year investment.  It’s another audience-killing and influence-diminishing barrier to the newspaper and website’s perspective and its political endorsement for readers and 11th Congressional District residents.

There’s been no real movement towards adding American Negroes to Cleveland.com’s editorial, sales and administrative leadership team since Rev. Jesse Jackson asked Chris Quinn in 2018 the same question that former State Senator Shirley Smith asked Elizabeth Sullivan in 2021.  Where are your “Black” workers?

For perspective if the Plain Dealer operated, exclusively, as a Cleveland newspaper its 94,000 circulation would only place 5500 copies in each of the city’s 17 wards.  Since it’s still trying to maintain a countywide and somewhat regional presence, it’s doubtful the Plain Dealer sells 35,000 copies in the entire city of 380,000 and its surrounding suburbs.  A reader now has to drive around the city trying to find one since their store presence has dissappeared along with their neighborhood news boxes.

There are 60 cities, villages and townships in Cuyahoga County with a total population of 1.2 million.  If 35,000 copies are sold in Cleveland that leaves 1000 copies each for readers in each of the county’s 59 other cities if all 94,000 copies were distributed in Cuyahoga County … and they’re not.  Parma’s population, alone, is roughly 80,000.  There are 190,000 residents of Akron.

The concern candidates express about the Plain Dealer’s ability to have any meaningful impact on educating voters and turnout is real since its “possible” 94,000 copies are thinned out between Cuyahoga, Lake, Summit, Lorain, Trumbull, Mahoning and Portage counties.  It almost makes a Plain Dealer endorsement pointless since its tiny circulation, huge daily per copy cost and prohibitive website pricing places the dying newspaper outside the economic and practical reach of local readers.

One candidate told EJBNEWS Sullivan’s questioning style was “attitudinal” and that if a candidate didn’t offer an answer she liked she asked the question again.  She appeared to direct more attitude at former State Senator Nina Turner despite the candidate’s stroking of Sullivan’s ego by praising the newspaper in the face of Smith’s criticism.  It was apparent, said another candidate, that Cuyahoga County council member Shontel Brown had no chance with Sullivan.

Smith told EJBNEWS she has not yet received a written response from either Quinn or Sullivan to her correspondence.  The candidate for the United States Congress said she absolutely could not fail to speak up for her people just because of an endorsement.

Eric Jonathan Brewer

Cleveland's most influential journalist and East Cleveland's most successful mayor is an East Saint Louis, Illinois native whose father led the city's petition drive in 1969 to elect the first black mayor in 1971. Eric is an old-school investigative reporter whose 40-year body of editorial work has been demonstrably effective. No local journalist is feared or respected more.

Trained in newspaper publishing by the legendary Call & Post Publisher William Otis Walker in 1978 when it was the nation's 5th largest Black-owned publication, Eric has published and edited 13 local, regional and statewide publications across Ohio. Adding to his publishing and reporting resume is Eric's career in government. Eric served as the city's highest paid part-time Special Assistant to ex-Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. He served as Chief of Staff to ex-East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor; and Chief of Communications to the late George James in his capacity as the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's first Black executive director. Eric was appointed to serve as a member of the state's Financial Planning & Supervision Commission to guide the East Cleveland school district out of fiscal emergency and $20 million deficit. Former U.S. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson told Eric in his D.C. office he was the only mayor in the nation simultaneously-managing a municipal block grant program. Eric wrote the city's $2.2 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant application. A HUD Inspector General audit of his management of the block grant program resulted in "zero" audit findings.

As a newspaper publisher, Eric has used his insider's detailed knowledge of government and his publications to lead the FBI and state prosecutors to investigations that resulted in criminal prosecutions of well-known elected officials in Ohio; and have helped realign Cleveland's political landscape with the defeat of candidates and issues he's exposed. Eric's stories led to the indictments of the late Governor George Voinovich's brother, Paul Voinovich of the V Group, and four associates. He asked the FBI to investigate the mayor he'd served as chief of staff for public corruption; and testified in three federal trials for the prosecution. He forced former Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj to admit her investigations of police killings were fraudulent; and to issue notices to local police that her investigators would control police killing investigations. Eric's current work has resulted in Cuyahoga County Judge John Russo accepting the criminal complaint he guided an activist to file against 24 civil rights-violating police officers in the city he once led for operating without valid peace officer credentials. USA Today reporters picked up on Eric's police credentials reporting from his social media page and made it national.

Eric is the author of of his first book, "Fight Police License Plate Spying," which examines the FBI and local police misuse of the National Crime Information Center criminal records history database. An accomplished trumpet player and singer whose friendship with Duke Fakir of the Four Tops resulted in his singing the show's closing song, "Can't Help Myself": Curtis Sliwa of New York's Guardian Angels counts Eric among his founding chapter leaders from the early 1980's role as an Ohio organizer of over 300 volunteer crime fighters in Cleveland, Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio. For his work as a young man Eric was recognized by Cleveland's Urban League as it's 1983 Young Man of the Year.

Known in Cleveland for his encyclopedic knowledge of government and history, and intimately-connected with the region's players, every local major media outlet in Cleveland has picked up on one of Eric's stories since 1979. There is no mainstream newspaper, television or radio outlet in Cleveland that does not include an interview with Eric Jonathan Brewer in its archives over the past 40 years.

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