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Up in Arms Again

PD reporters say management is going cheap.

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Can the franchise on Superior handle another brown-bag meeting?

A week after we published our story on The Plain Dealer ["Wounded Giant," August 23], in which we attempted to sympathize with beleaguered Editor Doug Clifton, Punch received an anonymous letter from "a veteran reporter." Somebody's pissed.

"Management is running the paper into the ground," writes the reporter. "They have no regard for the quality of content."

The reporter claims that management has arbitrarily cut the staff's access to LexisNexis, an online research tool used by most periodicals. Those whose accounts were cancelled found out only after their log-ins stopped working.

Then came an e-mail from on high, suggesting that staffers share accounts. After someone realized that'd be illegal, a second e-mail revised the company line: If you need to conduct a search, ask a colleague with access to do it for you. "It's a fucking joke," writes the reporter.

We asked Clifton to clarify the matter, but Punch believes he may not be inclined to respond to anonymous complaints, since he stated, "I don't respond to anonymous complaints."

Next we called Ellen Burbach, assistant managing editor for administration, whom reporters blame for the whole mess.

"We don't respond to anonymous complaints," she told Punch. "The same thing Doug told you."

Punch was thrilled when Ted Diadiun, Plain Dealer reader rep and points leader on the World Sphincter Tour, recently announced the paper's Reader Advisory Network, a way to connect readers with the paper.

Readers can sign up (plaindealer.com/eforum) to receive e-mails on a variety of topics. Say a reporter's working on a story about iPods, but doesn't want to leave his cubicle for fear of spraining something. He can just shoot an e-mail to Teddy Sphincter, who will then e-mail the network asking whether anyone owns an iPod. Or say Teddy needs a date and can't find the classified ad he ripped out of Scene . . . Okay, you get the drift.

Punch eagerly signed up, and we received our first correspondence last week. "The Plain Dealer's BusinessMonday section will begin a new feature, tentatively called 'Pinching Pennies,'" Ted wrote. "We will ask readers to share simple money-saving tips that they use at home or at work."

Desperate for Ted's bearded affection, we toiled over his request, carving out several minutes during the commercials of Two and a Half Men. Here are some of our best penny-pinching tips:

· As fuel costs rise, drive to Shaker and siphon the gas from Sam Fulwood's Mustang. Extra tip: Save even more by stealing the whole car and selling it for parts.

· Save on toilet paper by using Ted's Sunday column. (Sorry, we couldn't help ourselves. We had to go for the obligatory toilet-paper joke.) If you prefer double-plied, anything by Bill Livingston will do.

· Better yet, cancel your PD subscription and pay a homeless dude 15 cents to steal it off the neighbor's porch.

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