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Guild disputes Plain Dealer editor's claim that 10 journalists asked to be laid off

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Posted at 6:22 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 18:22:11-04

CLEVELAND — After laying off 22 journalists last week, leaving only 14 journalists, 10 of the remaining reporters and photographers requested to be laid off, Editor Tim Warsinskey said in a statement Friday—a statement The Plain Dealer News Guild said is untrue.

Just a few days before the 10 employees from The Plain Dealer were laid off Friday, they were told, along with the employees who remain with the newspaper, that aside from a few exceptions they could no longer cover Cleveland, Cuyahoga County or the state of Ohio.

Instead, Warsinskey informed the remaining staff that they would become a bureau covering five surrounding counties of Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina and Portage.

“The PD and its owners put dedicated journalists in an impossible situation to embarrass them by banning most of them from reporting on Cleveland, Cuyahoga County & the state. That meant being kept from covering the topics they know best and in many cases are regarded as experts,” The PD News Guild said in a statement. “If not for the Guild’s collective bargaining agreement, the union would not have been able to negotiate with the company an exit that allowed these workers to keep their earned severance and have health care during a pandemic.”

Warsinskey and The PD News Guild have conflicting accounts of how these latest layoffs transpired, with the union stating the layoffs were not voluntary and the editor claiming they were.

"It is always difficult to watch our friends and talented colleagues leave our newsroom. That was true last week and it’s true today. However, the individuals leaving today made personal decisions to voluntarily leave The Plain Dealer. I respect them and their decisions,” Warsinskey’s statement read. “Nevertheless, as The Plain Dealer continues to adapt to the financial challenges facing everyone in the news industry, and indeed the entire country right now, I want to assure our readers, subscribers and advertisers that some important things remain unchanged at The Plain Dealer.”

The PD News Guild, on the other hand, said Warsinskey’s statement “couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“PD Editor @TimsTakeCLE said it was difficult to watch 'friends and talented colleagues leave our newsroom.' He said the 10 journalists leaving made voluntary decisions to be laid off. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It was the PD who decided to lay off union workers,” the union said in a statement on Twitter.

The four remaining employees include John Caniglia, Susan Glaser, Steven Litt and Terry Pluto, The PD News Guild said.

While there are only four remaining staff members at The Plain Dealer, Warsinskey said that including the cleveland.com newsroom, they will have “nearly 70 journalists, all but six of whom are at cleveland.com, covering Greater Cleveland and Ohio.”

The PD News Guild said it wishes the best for the reporters who will be assigned to take over the beats of those who have been laid-off.

“To those reporters who will take on the beats and topics laid-off reporters care so much about, the Guild wishes you the best. The industry is only going to get tougher,” the union said. “Once the union workers have all been picked off, the company will look for other places to cut. Stick together and protect yourselves. One way to do that? Start a union.”

Warsinskey, despite being down to just four employees under his supervision, said that the newspaper, established in 1842, can continue to be a reliable source for the city of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio to get their news.

“You can continue to rely on The Plain Dealer, and cleveland.com, to bring you the news whether you’re opening a paper at your kitchen table or scrolling through stories on your phone,” Warsinskey said in a statement. “That commitment will never change.”

Read Warsinskey’s full statement below:

Today, 10 of our reporters and photographers made the decision to voluntarily ask to be laid off. This comes a week after we regretfully parted ways with some talented journalists. These departures are emblematic of a larger challenge our industry is facing.

It is always difficult to watch our friends and talented colleagues leave our newsroom. That was true last week and it’s true today. However, the individuals leaving today made personal decisions to voluntarily leave The Plain Dealer. I respect them and their decisions.

Nevertheless, as The Plain Dealer continues to adapt to the financial challenges facing everyone in the news industry, and indeed the entire country right now, I want to assure our readers, subscribers and advertisers that some important things remain unchanged at The Plain Dealer.

You will still read locally produced, important and impactful stories about Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio and the COVID-19 pandemic in our pages – none of that coverage will be reduced.

We will continue to be the leading source for news and information here in Northeast Ohio.

And we are not going anywhere. We will continue to print the paper seven days a week, deliver four days a week, including Sunday, and during this crisis, make access to our e-edition free so we can help keep our community informed.

All of this continues thanks to our long-standing practice of publishing stories produced by local reporters from our sister company, cleveland.com, which is the dominant digital news source in Ohio. A large percentage of the journalism in The Plain Dealer every day since 2013 has been produced by cleveland.com reporters, photographers and editors, including those covering Cleveland City Hall, Cuyahoga County, the statehouse, the justice system, public safety, sports, food, arts and entertainment. This continuing relationship will enable The Plain Dealer’s ability to continue to bring you the news you need even during this time of transition.

Together, these two newsrooms still have nearly 70 journalists, all but six of whom are at cleveland.com, covering Greater Cleveland and Ohio. That many journalists is on par with some of the leading, similar-sized papers and websites in the Midwest.

Meanwhile, more than 600 Plain Dealer employees and contractors work tirelessly every day to design, print, package and distribute more than a half million newspapers each week. They are helping to keep this community informed in an era when each of them knows just leaving the house puts her or him at potential risk. That essential work also will continue.

I am not diminishing the loss of journalists from our newsroom, whether today or over the past several years. These are good people who have represented The Plain Dealer well and worked hard to make this community a better place.

Right now, we are in the process of reevaluating our plans for our newsroom and developing a new path forward that will allow us to keep our commitment to you. I will share those plans with you as soon as I am able.

But despite all of these changes, The Plain Dealer is still here and will be here, giving you the stories that matter to Northeast Ohio and helping us understand the world around us.

Over the years in any newsroom, there are waves of personnel changes. Folks who cover beats for decades move on. New and sometimes younger journalists step in and usually wind up surprising us all. It's our job to develop them, guide good journalism and continue to make The Plain Dealer a relevant, reliable and accurate source of news, sports, business, arts, entertainment, food, opinion and even go & do when we're allowed to go and do again.

You can continue to rely on The Plain Dealer, and cleveland.com, to bring you the news whether you’re opening a paper at your kitchen table or scrolling through stories on your phone.

That commitment will never change.

Read The PD News Guild’s full statement below: