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When a Large Newspaper Embraces a Race-Based Agenda

Cleveland Plain Dealer goes all in on identity politics as foundation of coverage
By John Fortney
October 17, 2023
On The Record

If you, like so many others, question whether your local newspaper is relevant to your neighborhood and your life, look no further than what the Cleveland Plain Dealer and its online arm cleveland.com announced this week.

The editor wrote a column outlining a new directive requiring reporters to retrieve race-based research on the people they interview.  I’m not kidding. Read all about it here.

“Reporters will ask anyone they speak with how they define their gender along with their race and ethnicity and the year they were born.”

According to the editor, it is an attempt to bring more diversity to their reporting. Here’s a radical idea from me, a former political reporter, how about concentrating on bringing the facts to a story rather than quotas?

This is exactly what I’ve been pointing out. Today’s newsrooms are now practicing advocacy journalism. The only things newsrooms should be advocating for are the facts. Not societal narratives and race-based opinions based on the ever-changing bar of so-called social justice. 

The Plain Dealer is working with another organization to compile the demographic information to help make sure their newsroom staffing is more reflective of the community in general. Well, there you go. That ought to do it. If I worked in that newsroom I would be applying for other jobs, because suddenly skin color, sexual preference, and radical gender identity are now more important to the newspaper than quality and competence.

Ask yourself what skin color, sexual preference, or gender identity you want your brain surgeon, heart surgeon, or retirement planner to be? What was that you said? You want to make sure they’re competent? Because results matter? Wow, I didn’t realize you were so racist and radical. Time for you to be deprogrammed in the Hillary Clinton classroom of global elitists.

So, for the next two weeks the paper’s poor reporters (yes, I still have some sympathy for a few of today’s reporters) will be asked to survey the people they interview so the data can be compiled through a branch of the American Press Institute called “Source Matters.” 

Its mission is to “track and improve the diversity of sources in your news stories.” What this tells me is what you and I have known for the better part of a decade. Print newsrooms have lost their way and are becoming irrelevant to the communities they cover. Facts matter. And as a matter of fact, qualifications of a source should always take precedence over the skin deep issue of diversity. Dr. Martin Luther King knew that decades ago when he emphasized the content of character over the color of skin. I used to tell my newsroom that a good story is a good story. Relevant, well written and founded in facts.

In other words, not only do these editors not understand their audience. They are under the misconception that quotas are the answer. Maybe the Plain Dealer didn’t cover the story about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling race-based affirmative admissions policies unconstitutional in higher education.

When a newspaper advertises $1 subscriptions for six months of content it shows how they can’t even give it away, and, if that’s the case, the business model will fail.

Personally, I’ve decided to bypass the bulk of our messaging around the legacy media’s liberal filters. At some point, someone at the very top of these companies will be faced with a scenario when downsizing reporters, canceling print editions, and outsourcing the copy desk will no longer get the company to break even. When that happens, a simple question will be asked. Who decided to base the business model on quotas rather than compelling stories based on facts?

By then it will be too late. Maybe it already is. This type of progressive-think has already allowed privately funded dark money blogs like the Capital Journal to pose as objective newsrooms as the old guard grinds to a halt, and goes the way of the printing press and the dodo.

John Fortney
Director of Communications