The hot poop last week swirled around David Hall, deposed editor of The Plain Dealer. Hall announced his resignation last Wednesday to a packed newsroom, surprising absolutely no one. Virtually from the day he joined the paper in 1992, Hall was a marked man. The only surprise was how long he managed to survive.
Hall's chief nemesis was the very person dumping praise on him in the Metro story the next day--PD President and Publisher Alex Machaskee. While steaming heaps of "Hall's fine journalistic mind and many talents" were served up for public consumption, the truth was, Machaskee had done everything he could to undermine Hall, openly and constantly criticizing him in front of his staff.
"What's the problem, David?" Machaskee would smirk, in tones implying that Hall himself was the problem.
Talk about poop! The real problems began when Hall was hired by Newhouse, The PD's corporate owner, rather than Machaskee, pitting two strong personalities in a power struggle from day one. A more recent problem has been Machaskee's cozy relationship with City Hall, which has essentially neutered the paper's coverage of Imperial Mayor Mike White. Whatever other flaws Hall may have had, he was at least willing to confront White and demand better access for his reporters.
The alleged details of one such confrontation were reported two weeks ago by the Coventry Road Shopper (a.k.a. the Free Times) in a story that had the White administration's fingerprints all over it. Hall was portrayed as the embarrassed loser of a nasty téte-à-téte with the mayor, and a toilet mouth besides. When Hall pulled the chain just days after the story ran, he appeared to be the victim of a wicked power play.
But Hall had been negotiating his exit long before the story appeared. The real impact of the piece was, as one PD staffer observed, more like "a kick on the way out the door."
Who will succeed Hall? A better question might be, what's the difference? The whole business has a depressingly familiar odor, reaching back at least 25 years, when Plain Dealer Publisher Thomas Vail was running interference for Mayor Ralph Perk. The names change, but in the end, it's the same old dreck.
Never mind that the old Richman Brothers building is all windows. It will make a swell jail, according to no less an expert than straight-shooting Sheriff Gerry McFaul. The longtime scourge of bad guys and good grammar held forth at a recent county commissioners meeting on the virtues of the proposed East 55th Street slammer, assuring a midtown resident that her concern about violent offenders roaming the neighborhood was unfounded. The new lockup will be for minor offenders only, McFaul promised, precluding any chance of running into "murderers, rapists, and homosexual peoples."
And speaking of wacky political humor--Jimmy Dimora has barely warmed his new County Commissioner seat, and already everyone at 1219 Ontario is sick of hearing his fat jokes. The svelte Dimora, who claims to have dropped a whopping hundred pounds over the past year, keeps telling anyone who will feign interest, "I'm half the man I used to be." Also stuck on the repeat button: "If you need a job, call [Commissioner] Jane Campbell. If you have a complaint, call [Commissioner] Tim McCormack. If you have a compliment, call me." That number, Fergie, is 443-7180.
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