Plain Dealer Shoots Itself In the Foot With Blogger Firing
by Philip de Vellis, Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 11:16:00 AM EDT
Jerome asked me to chime in on the growing controversy over the Cleveland Plain Dealer's firing of the well-respected Ohio blogger Jeff Coryell aka Yellow Dog Sammy.
I got to know Jeff in 05-06 while working on Sherrod Brown's Senate campaign. Ohio is blessed with a large and talented pool of bloggers across the state, and Jeff is certainly one of the best.
His writing ranges from provocative muckraking to tirelessly studying Ohio state house races. Jeff was always fair, insightful, and innovative in his blogging. You wouldn't know it by looking at him, but Jeff's a tough advocate for the causes he supports, a skill enhanced by his experience as a lawyer and a former assistant U.S. District Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
The Plain Dealer's firing of Jeff is so outrageous that even most Republican bloggers in the state have spoken out against the decision. For anyone who knows Ohio politics, this is an act that according to Jeff would compare with "the Ohio and Michigan football teams meeting on the 50 yard line for tea."
So, what happened exactly?
Six weeks ago, the Plain Dealer hired two Democratic bloggers and two Republican bloggers to write unfiltered, unedited posts about Ohio politics on their website. When local GOP congressman Steve LaTourette saw Jeff's byline, he apparently went ballistic and pressured the Plain Dealer to drop him.
The source of LaTourette's ire originated from posts Jeff wrote in 2006 that explored his links to Jack Abramoff and pork doled out to his wealthy contributors. The paper eventually found its excuse to left Jeff go when he refused to refrain from writing about LaTourette after it was discovered that he'd made small donations to LaTourette's previous and current Democratic opponents.
It's ironic that a newspaper doesn't think the words Jeff has written against the Congressman are material, but a small $100 donation is.
I genuinely feel very sad about this turn of events. Newspapers are struggling to survive in the digital age, and bloggers -- especially at the state level -- are having a tough time continuing to work at this for free. If successful, this could've proved a useful model. Instead, this will only harden the distinction between MSM and New Media to no one's benefit.
It should be said that the one person who shouldn't be blamed for what happened is Jean Dubail, the paper's assistant managing editor who created "Wide Open. He's a smart and innovative professional, who I'm sure is just as frustrated and upset how this has turned out as any of us.
I asked Jeff what should people do and he suggested two things:
Donate to LaTourette's opponent Judge Bill O'Neill: http://oneill08.com
Spread the word that the Plain Dealer bowed to political pressure against the netroots and the interest of its readers.UPDATE: Video from Jeff courtesy of Buckeye State Blog: