When Journalism Dies (Local Cleveland Edition)
Updated: Mar 27
This is the credit sequence for a recent episode of South Park. After the episode aired, I also read that students are starting to cheat in college using a Chatbot.
So I pulled my kid aside and said "listen, there is apparently a move afoot for kids to cheat by using a Chatbot-"
He cut me off, "yeah I know kids who use a Chatbot already."
Back in 2019, this story in Cleveland was posted on social media about a shooting with multiple deaths. I went to Beacon of Speech and complained that local media outlet cleveland.com didn't cover the story very urgently:
"The top story at cleveland.com at 4:40 am on a Sunday was a shooting on Lorain Rd. in Cleveland with multiple deaths. The story was 10 hours old. If you do some simple math, that means the story I saw on Facebook was posted around 7 pm on Saturday. Why did it take over 12 hours for the media to post a 200 word story? Because that means cleveland.com didn't send a reporter to cover the actual crime, they waited until the police records were filed. Notice the photo from the story? Not a scene from the crime, but a stock photo slapped over the headline." -BOS
We are not that far away from journalistic websites just using a Chatbot to write stories based on police reports.
How do I figure?
In our area, cleveland.com is supposed to be the Newspaper of Record. Instead, the Out-of-Touch Editor at cleveland.com, Chris Quinn, championed the concept of a "Right to be Forgotten" in 2018. In 2022, the "Right to be Forgotten Movement" pulled down a cool $200,000 from Google so certain stories could be "unfound" by the search engine.
Dude, the Cleveland Police had to send in a tank to arrest my wife's cousin about a decade ago.
(Not an exaggeration.)
Certain things should remain in the public domain.
Once tools like Chris Quinn decide that public record is written in pencil, and not pen, there's really no reason for newspapers to exist, is there? As an American, it is Quinn's right to feel that way about newspapers, As an editor, I don't know how his staff doesn't drag him into the street and beat him.
Which brings us to our point today.
If you asked me about the best writers in the history of The Plain Dealer/cleveland.com, the names that would come up would all either be retired, or over 65 years old. (Yes, I'm talking about Terry Pluto.)
One of their only writers with any talent under 40 was Troy Smith. He was their Rock Music expert, which was an important position in a city that markets its image around the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Now I didn't always agree with Smith, but I respected his process. When I recently saw some guy writing even WORSE pieces about the Rock Hall, I wondered aloud: What happened to Troy Smith?
About 6 months ago, arguably the best young journalist in Cleveland, maybe in a generation, announced he was leaving Cleveland Scene. Unlike Troy Smith, who kind of disappeared into the ether, Scene celebrated Sam Allard.
Scene allowed Allard a farewell column: 10 Scene Stories From 10 Uproarious Years
Scene is still listed on Sam Allard's Twitter: @SceneSallard
Scene allowed his peers a farewell column: Sam Allard Joins Axios
Apparently Axios is a new, straightforward journalistic entity, with a new Cleveland Office. They branched into Cleveland at the end of 2022 and now they have two local writers, Troy Smith and Sam Allard.
Why is this a big deal?
Here's a part of Axios' Manifesto:
We are committed to helping revive local journalism — and invite local readers to help us best serve their community. (Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
We will go the extra mile to earn your trust. All employees are asked to refrain from taking/advocating for public positions on political topics.
So Axios Cleveland snatched up, arguably, the two best young journalists in Cleveland and are squaring up against woke cleveland,com? You know what, I'm rooting for Axios Cleveland. Only time will tell if they will push this incarnation of cleveland.com into oblivion, or if Axios will turn into the journalistic version of the USFL.
Being unfound is an insult to Beacon of Speech, an entity that struggles to be found in the first place. It's ironic, because today no one either remembers, or cares about, many of cleveland.com's agenda-driven stories.
Editor's Note II: I don't know why, but I couldn't stop thinking about this song while writing this article.
Editor's Note III:
Also from the Axios Bill of Rights:
Every item will be written or produced by a real person with a real identity. There will be NO AI-written stories.* NO bots. NO fake accounts.