Tom O’Hara, managing editor of The Plain Dealer, is departing the paper this Friday. In a memo released today,
editor Susan Goldberg put a happy face on the news, playing it as a great loss, etc, etc., though the real story isn’t nearly that pretty.
O’Hara was once the heir apparent to former editor Doug Clifton. When the two men arrived from the Miami Herald turn of the century, they were expected to reinvigorate Cleveland’s largest news organization, which long had a reputation for lethargy. And while their first few years were charged with explosions – the paper’s battles with former Mayor Mike White were well worth the price of admission – recent times have been less kind.
Clifton often found the union staff an alien and unmovable force, and more than a few reporters believed he’d given up before his retirement, preferring to speak on weighty journalism matters rather than actually produce a weighty newspaper.
Depending upon who you talk to, O’Hara, in charge of day-to-day operations, was either a guy in the impossible position of righting a declining business, or an old-line editor who clumsily failed to see a new world.
Either way, it was common knowledge in the newsroom that Clifton had chosen O’Hara to succeed him. When Goldberg was brought in from San Jose instead, O’Hara’s time was clearly done. He’ll depart Friday for a new job at Kent State, where he’ll teach course on ethics and open government. – Pete Kotz