According to sources inside the Plain Dealer, three top union reporters were pulled from their beats covering Cuyahoga County courts and local justice Wednesday. The plan is to replace them with non-union J-school grads looking for cheap jobs and covering those beats for the Northeast Ohio Media Group in its quest to gather all the listicle-worthy news you can handle.
The three reporters who have yet to be reassigned are Rachel Dissell, John Caniglia, and Jim McCarty. It seems they’re free now to do general assignment and feature work (but, ya know, only if it doesn’t involve courts or crime) until the guild contract runs out in 2019. (The union did agree to five layoffs in 2015 in the latest contract with Advance.)
These three reporters have written some of the best in-depth investigations in the paper’s recent history. Dissell broke the Steubenville High School for the mainstream media and revealed the disgraceful backlog of untested rape kits in Cuyahoga County (which led to nearly 170 indictments). Her reporting led to the arrest of Elias Acevedo for the murder of Christina Adkins and helped bring closure to the Gloria Pointer cold case. Caniglia’s reporting helped destroy corruption in the Lorain Police Department. McCarty’s stories of Jimmy Dimora’s fall from grace were some of the most-read articles in PD history. Internally, they’d all been praised for their outstanding journalism. Externally, they’d received countless state and national awards. Around the city, they’re among the most respected reporters working today.
Why would a VP give the boot to three top reporters?
The reason bandied about the Plain Dealer newsroom in the wake of the announcements is that the stories written by Dissell, Caniglia, and McCarty were generating some of the highest traffic online. Since these three reporters still work for the union-employed Plain Dealer, NEOMG and NEOMG boss Chris Quinn could not take credit for the Internet traffic. By replacing his award-winning journos, Quinn can now claim the clicks for future court stories.
Quinn did not return calls for comment.
The same thing happened not too long ago with the Cavs beat. When Mary Schmitt Boyer announced she’d be leaving the PD and the Cavs beat, the Northeast Ohio Media Group land-grabbed the Cavs, leaving the secondary Cavs writer still at the PD free to do general assignment and feature sports work (as long as it doesn’t involve the Cavs, Indians, Browns or Buckeyes.) NEOMG announced earlier this week that it had tabbed Joe Vardon, most recently a state politics reporter at the Columbus Dispatch, as its LeBron beat writer and Chris Haynes, who most recently covered the Portland Trailblazers, as its new Cavs beat writer. That’s a whole lot of new traffic in sports-hungry Cleveland (with the biggest name in sports on the team) for NEOMG to collect.