Business owners in Cleveland Heights are fed up with the negative coverage of the inner-ring suburb on Cleveland.com. Many of them are considering boycotting the site and canceling what remains of their Plain Dealer
subscriptions en masse, to protest what they see as sensational journalism.
obtained an email sent yesterday from Alex Quintana of Quintana's Barber & Dream Spa on South Taylor Road. Quintana asked other small business owners in the area to band together in the face of changing public perceptions.
It is not to say that we don't have crime in this city, but it does seem as if Chanda Neely, from the Northeast Ohio Media Group, and Cleveland.com, have chosen that this is the only press they will write about. It is my impression that it is starting to effect the amount of business that we get from other suburbs such as Beachwood, Pepper Pike, Orange, etc. I know that none of us as small business owners are willing to just lay down and let this happen, but the perception that this city is a war zone is starting to effect our bottom line.
Declan Synnott, who owns Parnell's Pub on Lee Road, told Scene
that his business has indeed been suffering in recent years. He attributes the decline not only to the loss of suburban clientele but also to the lack of students from Case Western Reserve and John Carroll:
"The Case kids have their own entertainment district in University Circle now, and the Carroll kids get bused to Ohio City," Synnott said.
Synnott, who closed half of Parnell's pub earlier this year to cut costs, thinks that the recent problem is more than just bad press, though the NEOMG's coverage has been making matters far worse. He said Cleveland Heights government needs to step in and start finding ways to improve the area, even if it's only related to perceptions of safety.
Boycotting the Northeast Ohio Media Group is more of a symbolic gesture than anything. Again, from Quintana's email:
I know we have all put in our hard earned money to invest in our businesses to attract clients and that we are not willing to lose those investments to negative press; at best yellow journalism. It is something that I think we should all address uniformly. Whether or not we all take our Plain Dealer subscriptions and cancel them all in the same day, or utilize our social media influence via our businesses to create a positive image of our city... Please forward this to as many people you think should know and would be interested in making sure that we don't just lay down and let Cleveland.com keep running our city through the mud.
Though recent stories about arson at the Katz' Club Diner
and the closings of Sweetie Fry and the Pub on Lee were upsetting, business owners' biggest beef was with the fiendish coverage of the shooting of Jim Brennan, owner of Brennan's Colony on Lee, back in July.
“We had 50 posts on that — engagement posts, perspectives, updates — we got a half-million page views,” NEOMG VP of Content Chris Quinn told Crain's
in August (in an extremely rare media appearance). “It's a completely new approach to the way we report news and the way people want to consume it.”
The way people are forced
to consume it, Quinn should have said, thanks to the iterative reporting methods promulgated by the VP himself and the digital-first luminaries at Advance Publications. Those methods often result in 10 or 12 (or 118)
fragmented variations on a single theme. Most news posts on developing stories consist of a sentence or two of breaking coverage followed by 250-odd words of repurposed material.
In the meantime, Cleveland Heights businesses (on Lee Road specifically) will continue to bear the brunt of the NEOMG's new approach. Next to Parnell's Pub, for instance, a MetroPCS storefront has recently appeared.
The mushrooming up of prepaid wireless service providers tend to be greeted with somewhat less fanfare than Sam McNulty brewpubs or farm-to-table concepts. Instead, people bite their lips and mournfully click their tongues while Quinn and his minions' find 400 ways to whisper "There goes the neighborhood."