The Plain Dealer is the major daily newspaper of Cleveland, Ohio, United States. It has the largest circulation of any Ohio newspaper and was a top 20 newspaper for Sunday circulation in the United States as of March 2013.
As of December 2015, The Plain Dealer had more than 250,000 daily readers and 790,000 readers on Sunday. The Plain Dealer's media market, the Cleveland-Akron DMA (Designated Market Area), is one of the Top 20 markets in the United States. With a population of 3.8 million people, it is the fourth-largest market in the Midwest, and Ohio's largest media market.
In April 2013 The Plain Dealer announced it would reduce home delivery to four days a week, including Sunday. This went into effect on August 5, 2013. A daily version of The Plain Dealer is available electronically as well as in print at stores, newsracks and newsstands.
History and ownership
The newspaper was established in 1842, less than 50 years after Moses Cleaveland landed on the banks of the Cuyahoga River in The Flats, and is currently owned by Advance Publications (Newhouse Newspapers). The Plain Dealer Publishing Company is under the direction of Virginia Wang (general manager). The paper employs over 700 people.
The newspaper was sold on March 1, 1967, to S.I. Newhouse's newspaper chain, and has been under the control of the Newhouse family ever since. The paper was previously held by the trusts of the Holden estate, and operated as The Plain Dealer Publishing Company, part of the Forest City Publishing Company, which also published the Cleveland News until its purchase and subsequent closing by its major competitor, the Cleveland Press, owned by the E.W. Scripps Company, in 1960.
On December 18, 2005, The Plain Dealer ceased publication of its weekly Sunday Magazine, which had been published uninterrupted for over 85 years. The demise of the paper's Sunday Magazine was attributed to the high cost of newsprint and declining revenue, and the PD reassigned the editors, designers and reporters to other areas of the newspaper. It also assured readers that the stories that would formerly have appeared in the Sunday Magazine would be integrated into other areas of the paper.
On the morning of Wednesday, July 31, 2013, nearly a third of the newsroom staff was eliminated through layoffs and voluntary resignations. The Plain Dealer's corporate owner, New York-based Advance Publications Inc., a private company run by the heirs of S.I. Newhouse, under a strategy to focus more on online news delivery, had been cutting staff and publication schedules. Previously, in December 2012, under an agreement with the Newspaper Guild, nearly two dozen union newsroom staff voluntarily accepted severance packages. The July round of layoffs led to accusations by the Guild that management had misled the union by cutting more employees than had been agreed upon.
On August 5, 2013, the Northeast Ohio Media Group launched and The Plain Dealer Publishing Company was formed. Northeast Ohio Media Group operates cleveland.com and Sun Newspapers (also known as the Sun News suburban papers) and is responsible for all multimedia ad sales and marketing for The Plain Dealer, Sun News and cleveland.com. It also provides content to The Plain Dealer, cleveland.com and Sun News. The Plain Dealer Publishing Company provides content and publishes in print seven days a week. The company also provides production, distribution, finance, information technology, accounting and other support services for the Plain Dealer Publishing Co. and Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Awards and honors
- 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning (Edward D. Kuekes).
- 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary (Connie Schultz).
- 2003 Editor & Publisher Editor of the Year Award (Doug Clifton)
- 12-time Ohio News Photographer's Association Award recipient (2001-2011, 2013).
- Nine-time Ohio Associated Press General Excellence Award winner:
- Two-time Ohio Associated Press First Amendment Award recipient (2001, 2004)
- Numerous other AP Awards in various individual and specific categories (Division V)
Pricing, distribution, circulation
The daily paper costs $1.50 and the Sunday/Thanksgiving Day edition is $2.25 at newsstands/newsracks. The full subscription weekly price is $4.65. These prices only apply to The Plain Dealer's home delivery area, which are the Northeast Ohio counties of Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, Portage, Erie, Ottawa, Summit, Ashtabula, Medina and Lorain. The Plain Dealer is available all over the state at select newsstands, including in the state capital, Columbus, and anywhere in the US or world via US mail service, in which prices are higher. The newspaper reported daily readership of 543,110 and Sunday readership of 858,376 as of October, 2013.
Effective August 5, 2013, home delivery was reduced to four days a week; a "premium" (full) edition on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, and a bonus version on Saturday. Subscribers to the three premium editions have access to a digital version seven days a week, which is an exact replica of the morning's paper. A print edition is still available daily at stores, newsracks and newsstands.
The Plain Dealer formerly operated a variety of news bureaus. By the middle of 2014, both the state capital bureau in Columbus and the Washington bureau were shifted to the Northeast Ohio Media Group, as shown by the affiliations of their bureau chiefs. 
The Plain Dealer is organized into several major sections, depending on the day of the week. The Sunday edition is, as with any major U.S. daily newspaper, the largest edition of the week. The current organization took effect August 5, 2013.
Major sections printed in most editions include:
- Local, state, national, and international news, editorial/op-ed page, and weather
- Local and national business news, stocks, bonds.
- Cleveland and national sports news and commentary. The sports section focuses its beat reporters on the Browns, Cavaliers, Indians, Cleveland State Vikings men's basketball, Mid-American Conference football and basketball and Ohio State Buckeyes football and men's basketball.
- Includes comics (printed in full color), TV listings, and the Dear Abby advice column.
- Home, auto, jobs, other classified advertising.
- Friday! Magazine
- Weekend magazine featuring movie reviews, event calendars, restaurant reviews and other cultural/nightlife pieces. (Friday)
- Articles and stories about the latest trends in food, locally and nationally (Wednesday)
- North Coast
- detailing local trends and community stories. (Sunday)
- expanded arts section. (Sunday)
- expanded business section. (Sunday)
- Buckeyes Extra
- expanded Ohio State football coverage. (Sunday)
- Browns Extra
- expanded Browns coverage (Monday)
- expanded editorial and opinion section. (Sunday)
- The Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine
- discontinued as of December 18, 2005
- discontinued and merged into Style & Taste as of July 1, 2008
- a section devoted to younger readers that was discontinued in 2008.
The Plain Dealer employs a modern styling of a daily newspaper, but has undergone dramatic stylistic changes in the past few years to update the print edition's look. Weekday and Sunday editions regularly feature front pages with content boxes on the upper part of the page detailing news inside. The physical width of the paper has been reduced in recent years as well, a trend throughout the newspaper industry.
- Terry Pluto (also does a religion column)
Criticism and controversies
The Plain Dealer has been criticized by liberal columnists for staking out generally conservative positions on its editorial page, despite serving a predominantly Democratic readership base. In 2004, the editorial board voted to endorse John Kerry; after publisher Alex Machaskee overruled it, ordering the board to write an endorsement of George W. Bush, editorial page editor Brent Larkin managed to talk Machaskee into withholding an endorsement. The news coverage is generally more neutral, with national and international news often culled from wire services, including the New York Times'.
The paper had also been accused of being too soft on Sen. George Voinovich, and in the 2004 election cycle for the U.S. Senate, not providing fair coverage, if any, to Voinovich's opponent, State Sen. Eric Fingerhut, a Democrat.
Publishing concealed weapons permit holder lists
In 2005, the newspaper twice published lists of concealed weapon permit holders from the 5 counties around Cleveland. Editor Doug Clifton defended the paper's decision, sparking a feud with a pro-carry lobbyist group. State Senator Steve Austria called it abuse of the media access privilege, saying publishing these names would threaten the safety of the men and women who obtain these permits. An Ohio gun rights group then published Clifton's home address and phone number.
"Held stories" controversy
The Plain Dealer made national headlines in the summer of 2005, when editor Douglas Clifton announced that the newspaper was withholding two stories "of profound importance" after Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine were ordered to reveal confidential sources who had provided information on Joseph Wilson's wife being a CIA operative. The decision to compel the reporters to reveal sources was seen in the news media as a license to go after reporters and newspapers in the courtroom for not revealing confidential informants and a violation of the trust between reporter and said informants. Clifton was vilified in the news media as "having no backbone" and he himself even admitted that people could refer to him as "chickenshit." Clifton told the national press that while he and the reporters involved in the story were willing to be jailed for not revealing sources, the legal department of the Plain Dealer Publishing Company was worried that the newspaper itself would be sued and strongly opposed the printing of the stories. "Talking isn't an option and jail is too high a price to pay", Clifton said.
The controversy ended when the Cleveland Scene, an alternative weekly Cleveland newspaper, published a similar story, thus allowing The Plain Dealer to print the withheld story. The story turned out to be on former Mayor Michael R. White's federal corruption probe, which was leaked to the press by an attorney on the case. The second withheld story has yet to be revealed.
Music critic sidelined
On September 17, 2008, The Plain Dealer's music critic of 16 years, Donald Rosenberg, was told by the paper's editor, Susan Goldberg, that he would no longer be covering performances of the Cleveland Orchestra. Rosenberg had been critical of orchestral performances under its conductor Franz Welser-Möst, although his reviews of Welser-Möst as a conductor of operas had been positive. Terrance C. Z. Egger, president and publisher of the paper, is also on the orchestra's board.
Welser-Möst is no stranger to robust criticism; during his tenure at the London Philharmonic Orchestra London critics gave him the nickname "Frankly Worse than Most". In December 2008, Rosenberg sued Cleveland's Musical Arts Association, the newspaper and several members of their staffs, alleging a conspiracy to have him demoted. Rosenberg dropped a number of claims against the paper in 2009, and in August, 2009, a jury rejected the remaining claims.
Shirley Strickland Saffold
In March 2010, the Plain Dealer reported that approximately 80 comments had been posted to articles on its web site by an account registered to the email address of Shirley Strickland Saffold, a judge sitting on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Several of the comments, posted under the pseudonym lawmiss, discussed matters that were or had been before the judge. Although the judge's 23-year-old daughter Sydney Saffold took responsibility for the postings, the paper was able to use a public records request and determine that the exact times and dates of some of the postings corresponded to the times that the corresponding articles were being viewed on the judge's court-issued computer. The revelation led one attorney, who had been criticized in the postings, to request the judge recuse herself from a homicide trial in which he represented the defendant. Ohio Supreme Court Acting Chief Justice Paul E. Pfeifer subsequently removed Saffold from the case.
Removal of debate video
In October 2014, the Northeast Ohio Media Group hosted the three Ohio candidates for governor in what would be their only joint appearance. The debate was held before the NEOMG's editorial board (which also serves as the editorial board of The Plain Dealer) and NEOMG reporters. Incumbent Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, showed up at the debate without a tie and largely ignored his main rival, Democrat Ed FitzGerald. Kasich went so far as to refuse to admit he could hear the questions of FitzGerald, who was sitting next to him, and instead insisted that a reporter repeat them.
During the debate, a video camera was positioned eight feet in front of the candidates. The resulting video was posted on cleveland.com. A few days later, however, it was removed. When other sites posted copies of the now-deleted video, the NEOMG sent letters threatening legal action. The NEOMG's actions drew coverage from other media organizations and criticism from media observers, particularly because Chris Quinn, the NEOMG vice president who sent the letters, declined all requests for comment.
At 7 a.m. on the day after the election, which Kasich—endorsed by the NEOMG—won easily, the news organization posted online an explanation of events written by its reader representative. The column cited this as Quinn's explanation: Shortly after the video was posted, the Kasich campaign contacted him and said it had not been aware a video would be posted online. Quinn eventually decided that his failure to explicitly explain the presence of a video camera was unfair. Further, "I thought that if I stated my reasons, the obvious next step would be people going to the candidates and asking them if they had any objection to putting the video back up," Quinn is quoted as saying. "That would mean my error could put people into an uncomfortable situation." The explanation left at least some critics unsatisfied.
The Plain Dealer is the major news contributor to cleveland.com, the regional news, event and communication portal run by Advance Digital via Northeast Ohio Media Group. The paper does not operate its own editorial website. Northeast Ohio Media Group runs a separate website for the business side of the newspaper, including advertising. cleveland.com also features news from the Sun Newspapers, which are a group of smaller, weekly, more suburban-oriented newspapers in the Greater Cleveland metro area also owned by Advance Publications. The Sun Newspapers are the largest chain of paid weekly newspapers in the country.
In July 2010, The Plain Dealer launched , a website that analyzes issues relevant to Ohio and the greater Cleveland area. The feature was produced in conjunction with its creator, the Tampa Bay Times. Four years later, the relationship was ended. Although the operation had generated criticism, the decision to drop it was attributed instead to a desire to keep all content on cleveland.com rather than the separate PolitiFact Ohio site, which remains available as an archive.