As part of Cleveland Magazine's 30th anniversary celebration, the editors have chosen 52 of their favorite stories from the magazine's archives, and wish to share them with you.
A new story will appear every week at Clevelandmagazine.com. It might be controversial, comical, nostalgic or nonplussing. But it will be Cleveland.
From Cleveland Magazine, January 1975
Before dawn on the first day, the battle lines were drawn. The Plain Dealer was struck. When pickets from the PD unit of the Cleveland Newspaper Guild began their slow, circular marches at the entrances to the newspaper's dismal building on Superior Avenue, they were not just more working people on strike. Not like the coal miners or auto workers or bus drivers or a hundred other unions whose walk-outs touch most of us only indirectly, if at all.
No, these strikers immediately upset the daily routine of Clevelanders by the hundreds of thousands. The city's morning newspaper, familiar as soggy toast crumbs in the breakfast coffee, was suddenly missing. As of that moment, "Ohio's largest" was no longer a newspaper claiming it existed to serve the public's* right to know; from that day, it was a private, profit-seeking company divided between management and labor-and let the public be damned.
Each day the strike lasted, The Plain Dealer lost thousands of dollars in revenue. One estimate put the loss at $450,000 a week. Over at The Cleveland Press, the "newspaper that serves its readers," the loss was potentially even greater: Its very future was at stake. From the first day of ~the strike, Press advertising salesmen were ordered not to go after the PD's exclusive accounts. Then, within a week, the Press stopped its own presses, leaving the city in a total newspaper blackout. Competition between the two dailies was shelved. More distressing still, though, were rumors that flew claiming the Press would emerge from the strike fatally wounded. That it would die, or soon merge with the stronger Plain Dealer.And let the public be damned.
On the picket line the first day, many of the strikers wore the kelly green Guild Local One jacket. The Guild is a white-collar union, and most of its members-reporters and copy editors-at the PD possess a bachelor's degree or better. Local One, as its number implies, is the oldest Guild membership in the nation. It was founded at the Press in 1933, largely at the instigation of nationally syndicated columnist Heywood Broun. The Pl) was not organized until 10 years later. Logically, its members might feel more akin to the whitecollar PD management than to the blue-collar craft unions also at the newspaper. The printers and other printing crafts sport kelly green jackets, too. One quadrant of a crest on the Guild jacket depicts a pair of horseshoes: not as a totum for luck, but to commemorate the "day of infamy" in 1972, during the last newspaper strike, when Cleveland mounted policemen horrified the labor community here by charging into a Guild picket line at The Plain Dealer.
The outcry then-this is a union town, with more than a quartermillion organized workers-resulted in a city ordinance banning mounted cops from strike scenes. Whether or not top editors at the PD had called for horses is still in dispute; that they called the cops on their own reporters is not. If nothing else, that day demonstrated publicly how badly relations between the newspaper's executives and its editorial staff had deteriorated. Since then, if anything, things have only gotten worse. Sitting in on a pre-strike bargaining session, United Auto Workers district director Bill Casstevens told the PD negotiators, "You treat your professionals worse than the assembly line workers at Lordstown."
The bitterness on both sides of the table was real. Jack Weir, Guild executive secretary since 1964, the man paid some $20,000 a year to work out Guild labor disputes with both Cleveland newspapers, wore his kelly green jacket with the horseshoes on the crest to the bargaining table before the strike. One of the nicer things he told Leo Ring, The Plain Dealer's resident Newhouse man-the Newhouse organization has owned the paper since 1967--during a negotiating session was, "Leo, when you die, they're going to bury you face down-so you know exactly where you are headed!" Ring, whom the strikers called "The Enforcer," is known for stringing together inflammatory expletives when referring to the Guild. The statement of a retired Plain Dealer executive may accurately reflect the management estimation of Weir: "I think Weir is an ass. He's a very stupid, abrasive character."
The issues in the strike-the real, underlying issues-were complex, far more than mutual intransigence over a wage package. Ostensibly, the company decided to suffer the strike rather than budge from the wage "pattern" set in a previous settlement with the newspaper truck drivers. The issues went beyond even the disputed discharge of a Guild officer, J. Stephen Hatch, and treatment of another reporter, Robert J. Dolgan. The ugliness that had been building to the boil-over point for the past four years in the second-floor editorial offices of Ohio's largest newspaper-that was the underthe-table reason behind the strike.
In fact, pre-strike conventional wisdom argued that this strike would never happen. A Guild strike two contract periods in a row was itself practically unprecedented among today's big-city newspapers. This strike was made all the more unconventional by the perilousness of these economic times for the country in general and newspaper publishing in particular. Two years ago, for example, the Newark (N.J.) Evening News ceased publishing after 88 years following a lengthy Guild strike; Newark has a metropolitan circulation area of more than 1,600,000 persons. Obviously, no Guild member here looked forward to surviving on strike benefits that ranged from $35 to $65 a week.
Late on Halloween, the night before the first day, almost every one of the PD unit's 225 Guild members gathered at the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Hall, 2227 Payne Avenue, to watch the last minutes of their contract tick off as the witching hour neared-and to shout almost unanimous reaffirmation of their determination to strike.
And so, the ineffable unreality of the cardboard-sign-carrying pickets, in the high spirits, that first day. Don Bean, the feisty chief of the PD's two-man southwest suburbs bureau, a veteran of past strikes as a Guild officer, observed, "The first day is always euphoric."
Bean's by-line had not appeared in print for months, in protest over, among other things, the Hatch-Dolgan issues. Another fervid Guildsman, Robert T. Stock, currently president of Local One, refused to continue writing his popular column on the PD editorial pages in similar protest. Trudging the picket line the first day, Bean began growing a "strike beard," vowing not to shave again "until the strike is over or my wife kicks me out of the house."
Unreality was only heightened by goings-on inside The Plain Dealer building.
Only a week before, publisher editor Tom Vail [see CLEVELAND MAGAZINE, November 1974] ad made his latest appearance on page one of his newspaper. In a story headlined, "Vail bids to head off newspaper strike here," a letter signed by Vail,was quoted as threatening that, unlike during the 129-day strike in 1962-63, the most acrimonious newspaper strike in city history, this time The Plain Dealer intended to continue publishing. Another PD editor, not Vail, was the real author of the letter, a reliable source insisted. Nonetheless, that public airing of the dirty linen of PD labor relations was not only indecent for a major newspaper, it produced two undesirable (for management) byproducts: First, the Guild demanded and got equal time, forcing Vail to read on the front page of his newspaper that the letter in question was "self-serving," "based on second-hand information . . . distortions and gross misrepresentations of the truth"; and secondly, the organized labor community, until then mildly indifferent to the situation, suddenly started worrying about the broader implication of Vail's threat-that the craft unions at the PD might be forced to cross Guild picket lines, pitting union against union-and began working up active sympathy for the Guild cause.
Frank Valenta, then president of the Cleveland AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, started getting anxious phone calls from member unionsretail clerks, teachers and others. "The whole Cleveland labor community was up in the air," Valenta told U.S. District Judge Ben C. Green, at a hearing at which The Plain Dealer sought a court order to force the craft unions to cross the Guild lines. Green ruled against the PD management.
Still, on the first day the PD management showed every sign of preparing to make good their threat to publish. After a night, perhaps restless, spent on cots erected for the occasion, key members of the management and 19 senior advertising and circulation employees were sequestered inside The Plain Dealer plant, in anticipation of the pickets. The 19 had been secretly trained to operate the mammoth presses-shipped all-expenses-paid to Oklahoma City for a three-week crash course at Southern Production Press, Inc., a "strikebreaker's school," as Leo Ring himself characterized it in court testimony.
Rumor had it these "scab pressmen" had been ordered to report for work at 10 the night before with clothing and personal items for an indefinite stay. Occasionally, one of the "scabs" would venture to an upper-floor window and peer stonily down at the enemy on the sidewalk.
Meanwhile, the most unreal touch yet. The day before, October 31, a half-dozen men checked into the Marriott Inn on West 150th Street under reservations made in the name of an assistant to PD business manager Roy 0. Kopp. Two of the men were from New Orleans, where The TimesPicayune and The States-Item are both part of the national, New York-based Newhouse chain, as is The Plain Dealer; the other four were from Portland, where Newhouse runs The Oregonian and The Oregon Journal. The six were reportedly experienced pressmen, imported to Cleveland to provide "technical assistance" to the 19 men the PD had trained. Kopp would testify in federal court that the six non-union imports were ordered to return home before they ever made it inside the PD building.
Cleveland Ordinance 13.112501, entitled "Employment of Persons Where a Lockout or Strike Exists," specifically prohibits the employment of professional strikebreakers. The Plain Dealer management either didn't know it was treading hazardous legal ground, or it didn't care."Cots brought in, scabs trained and brought in from out of town," muttered one striking Guildsman."Good God, this is like something out of the Thirties!" It was unreal. It was war. Not another strike -- all-out war.
On the sixth day of the strike the Press printed The Plain Dealer masthead beneath its own. Historically, that tactic harkened back to 1956, when in fact Cleveland published a triple mastheaded newspaper, an event probably unique in American journalism. The intent, then as now, was twofold: to win psychological points by a show of publisher unity; and to obtain, hopefully, an excuse for a nonstruck newspaper to lock out its employees. That's exactly what happened in '56. The Press was struck. The newspaper truck drivers refused to deliver editions of the now-defunct News and the PD with multiple mastheads, and both papers closed down.This time the drivers didn't bite -- until a new wrinkle was added to the tactic. On the ninth day the Press ordered the drivers to deliver double mastheaded editions to both Press and PD delivery stops. The drivers balked, and Press editor Tom Boardman posted a notice on the city room bulletin board which read, in part: "To All Employees: Because of the current dispute with the Newspaper Guild, The Cleveland Press has found it necessary, temporarily, to suspend publication as of today. . . . The Cleveland Press regrets this situation has occurred, since it affects so many loyal and faithful employees, as well as the general public. We have demonstrated our great concern for and interest in resolving the dispute throughout the negotiations and will continue in our efforts to resolve the dispute
so that normal operations can be resumed at the earliest possible time." Next to it, in a handwritten addendum, Boardman expressed his "deep personal regrets." Nonetheless, the city was without a daily newspaper.
The strike days-newspaper-less days-stretched into weeks. A seige mentality replaced the initial euphoria on both sides. In the words of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Francis E. Sweeney, who attempted unsuccessfully to mediate between the warring parties in the early days of the strike, "It won't be settled until one side or the other feels the pressures are just too great."
Pressures aside, the deep-seated causes behind the strike were not likely to be settled soon-even after the strike was over. Those root causes were the real "why" of the strike, the "why" that deprived Clevelanders of their daily news, lingerie ads, TV movie listings, state lottery results and death notices.
Stated at its over-simplest, The Plain Dealer during the past five or so years has become an increasingly lousy place to work. Reporters at every newspaper worth the name think of editors as smug blue-pencil pushers who don't remember (if they ever knew) what it means to be out on the street scrounging for news. Editors accuse reporters of lacking discipline, experience and horse sense. That adversary relationship, day to day, is normal. At The Plain Dealer mutual mistrust and disrespect between editors and reporters has snowballed, and that is not normal. The non-communication in both directions is not normal. Editorially, as a result, The Plain Dealer is a sick newspaper.
And Cleveland, as a result, has become an increasingly lousy newspaper town, with an ever bleaker immediate future. To appreciate why, it is necessary to dredge up past history.
When Sam Newhouse bought Cleveland's morning newspaper from the heirs of Liberty E. Holden, founder of the Sunday and morning Plain Dealer, in 1967, he found a news operation that was in its best shape in years. Whether completely deserved or not, the New- i, house organization carefully cultivates an image of never meddling with its newspapers' editorial product. And in the beginning, at least, Newhouse let Tom Vail and t his editors have their head-not even blinking at huge expenditures for expanded manpower, coverage and travel.
The Newhouses wanted to go to work on the production side of the paper first, anyway. That apparently suited Vail just fine, since his interest lay more on the editorial than the business side of the operation. From a management view, conditions in the PD's composing room had been allowed to go to hell. "We had one of the wildest ITU [Interrfational Typographical Union] situations in the country," recalls former make-up editor Cy Wainscott, now in charge of special projects at the PD. "Literally, when I wanted something done in the composing room, I wouldn't go to the supervisor. I'd go straight to a chapel chairman [union official]."
Not long before the sale, management did make one counterattack. The head of the ITU local, Newell Frizzell, was co-opted, installed as composing room supervisor. Frizzell, now a PD labor relations man, was one of the 19 men sent to Oklahoma City before the strike to learn to run the presses.
Still, when Newhouse troubleshooter Leo Ring arrived here after the sale to oversee Sam's biggest and brightest newspaper investment, he was heard to complain, "This is the worst composing room in North America!" Featherbed Heaven, certain editorial side cynics called it: overstaffed, underworked, stubbornly resistant to technological improvements. In terms of numbers, total manpower was greater than the combined totals when both the PD and The News were published in that same composing room.
Ring, a tough, smart streetfighter who has done yeoman's service for the Newhouses over the years, began as a proofreader on an early Newhouse newspaper in New Jersey. He is still a card-carrying printer or "typo"-an ITU member -and boasts of that fact frequently. Before tackling the PD assignment for which he is said to earn $80,000 annually, he was the Newhouse man at papers in St. Louis and Birmingham, Alabama. And if he knew anything, he knew how to handle his fellow typos and other craft unions.
One close observer of Ring's early maneuverings at the PD says, "The first thing Leo did was to precipitate a wildcat strike by the ITU." As a result of what management termed an unauthorized walkout-the union insisted it was only holding meetings on company time -- the typos were socked with a $250,000 lawsuit. Came contract time, and Ring neatly traded off, dropping the lawsuit for automation agreements and elimination of one particularly annoying featherbedding device known as the bogus. Bogus was advertising that arrived at the PD needing no printer work, ready for use; under the ancien regime, however, a printer was permitted to reset the ad in type. The typos also gained a crucial management guarantee-lifetime job security for all typos then employed.
One by one, Ring brought the craft unions under his thumb. At the bargaining table wage and fringe benefits and job guarantees were swapped for automation advances and manpower attrition agreements. "Pressure is my business," Ring, candid as usual, said recently. "Management now controls the composing room," was how a PD editor put it.
The Newhouse organization, it must be noted, has a union-hating reputation perhaps bested only by the Hearst newspaper chain. "One Portland is enough," lamented a Guild local on the West Coast as it donated $100 to the PD strikers. In Portland a strike by several craft unions began in 1959 against The Journal and The Oregonian, now both Newhouse-owned. It collapsed after five and a half years, during which both papers continued publishing with nonunion labor. That strike was probably the most strife-torn in American newspaper history: several injured in picket-line violence, a union negotiator jailed for dynamiting 10 newspaper trucks and a member of the Newhouse family who was production manager at the struck Oregonian wounded by a shotgun blast.
The unions charged Newhouse with importing "professional strikebreakers." Portland, they said further, "marked the first time the publishers in a major city had elected to take on all their organized workers in one massive unionbusting drive." A nation-wide drive for anti -strikebreaker legislation, sponsored by the printing trade unions, followed.
At The Plain Dealer, while Ring took on the composing room, the Newhouses quickly began undercutting Vail's control as publisher. Norman Newhouse -- Sam's brother and S.I. Newhouse, Jr. -- Sam's son -- began visiting the PD every Thursday. According to Harry L. McCormick, then a labor relations man at the newspaper and now an international representative of the Guild, "When the Newhouses first made their weekly visits, they would meet with Vail.
"Before long, though, they also began visiting the various departments of the newspaper, asking what the problems were, making little lists. I started getting calls. 'Who's in charge of this paper? Vail or NewhouseT Soon it became clear that if the Newhouses' lists didn't start getting shorter, there'd be trouble."
Yet very seldom did either the Newhouses or Leo Ring venture into the second-floor editorial offices-and almost never into the nearby city room. The great majority of reporters had no idea what these men even looked like. Day to day, the editorial side of the newspaper was left to Vail and his top editors. "The Newhouse people are extremely knowledgeable, especially in production areas," an editor who has observed them 'closely remarked. "But they are used to having some equally competent local people running the editorial end. Here, all the Newhouses got were headaches caused by the inept way in which the editorial management handled problems and dealt with their staff."
Not long after the Newhouses began setting the PD's production house in order, Vail decided the city room needed similar housecleaning. "We are going to be harder with these people," Vail told an editor. "We've been nice and it hasn't worked."
There was truth to Vail's complaint, but the root of growing city room unrest was larger than The Plain Dealer itself. The social upheaval that shook the nation in the late Sixties, the gap between generations that divided parent and child over issues of racial justice, campus protest and war resistance, found its way straight into newspaper city rooms around the country. The Plain Dealer was no exception, it just had more difficulty coping.
Editors at the PD had never had to face similar issues during their reporting careers. They had never thought to challenge the credibility of "official" sources. And so they were unwilling to go along with the kind of probing, in-depth jobs -skeptical of police, national guard or city hall versions -- that their young reporters wanted to do on major stories like Glenville, Kent State or the Perk Administration. Some reporters openly confronted editors whom they viewed as inferior. Vail himself, never the extrovert, withdrew more as the conflicts enveloped his newspaper. He tried several times to change editors, but his moves never seemed to mesh. He grew out of touch with realities in the city room, relying totally on the advice of a small group of editors who themselves had risen to their positions through office politics.
Ironically, the first victim of the new get-tough policy proved to be the staff's fairest-haired boy, star reporter Joe Eszterhas. In 1971 he was fired after writing an Evergreen Review article graphically detailing his somewhat ill-fated efforts to sell photographs of the Mylai massacre, which were first printed in the PD, to the heavies of the world press. More damning, Eszterhas included some comments about the newspaper's editors that were less than ceruleanblue loyal. His firing upset some of the younger, more militant reporters. But the vengeance with which management attempted to assassinate Eszterhas' character during a hearing before a labor arbitrator upset several more. "There are a lot of overtones from the Eszterhas case still here," observed former PD executive editor Philip W. Porter at the beginning of this strike. "He was fired for writing snotty and in some cases untrue things about The Plain Dealer management, but problems between the reporters and management have been bubbling ever since."
If the Eszterhas case was the first big punji stake driven between editors and the reporting staff, many more, large and small, would follow. In the summer of 1972, for instance, a popular as" sistant city editor, James B. Flanagan, was precipitously fired. He had been a PD employee since he was hired from the folded News in 1960. Flanagan's sin against the company was to bring an unopened beer into the city room-a zone surfeited with whiskey bottles in bottom drawers-as a peace offering to a reporter with whom he had argued.
Under intense Guild pressure, Flanagan was reinstated. His treatment, though, had an unmistakable effect. After all, Flanagan was no Eszterhas, who has since risen to senior editor at Rolling Stone. Flanagan was a loyal Plain Dealer man, one who would work the city desk until the day he retired-a PD lifer. Suddenly many other lifers in the city room discovered labor militancy. All at once they began to think, for possibly the first time, in terms of "us" against "them."
That sense of estrangement between labor and management burgeoned like a nuclear mushroom cloud later that year, in October, when the Guild struck -- and the horses came. The decision to call for cops reportedly was made by executive editor Thomas R. Guthrie while he lunched at the Cleveland Athletic Club. He relayed the message to Wilson Hirschfeld, who had been named managing editor the previous spring. Hirschfeld's close ties to newly elected Mayor Ralph J. Perk had already caused a major flap, which had ultimately led to standing orders that Hirschfeld was not to have any contact with his friend in city hall. On this occasion, though, Guthrie gave his managing editor a special dispensation. Hirschfeld called Perk, who called in police. Hirschfeld, who died last March, was himself fired in 1973, after serving the paper for more than 30 years, a sacrifice to employe peace by Guthrie, who had used him to enforce law and order in the city room.
Less publicized but no less disruptive occurrences literally abounded. For one, the executive Fuhrerbunker, as the city room dubbed it. Vail's office and those of his chief editors share one hallway, which had always been accessible from the city room. That hallway was sealed off. Thereafter an employe had to be buzzed through locked doors equipped with peepholes. Management announced the change was necessary as a security precaution. Reporters added, ". . . against us."
Another incident is illustrative of how the troops were managed. About a year ago, TV-radio editor Bill Hickey, one of the newspaper's better wordsmiths, was called into a superior's office. He had been warned before that his writing was "biased" and "inflammatory." On that editor's desk were strewn several of Hickey's recent columns. "This type of writing, Billwe just can't have it," Hickey was said to have been told. He was ordered to report to former assistant managing editor Lewis B. Edwards for writing lessons, an affront intended to force Hickey to resign. He did not. Hickey's column did not appear in print for months.
"A few months later," said a PD reporter, "Hickey won a national award for his column, a story we played on page one. Then they stopped bothering Bill about his column."
Needless to say, such happenings were spread among the staff like a social disease, the familiar topic of barroom grumblings. The anger and disenchantment spread in an ever widening wake, reaching deeper and deeper into the staff. And much of it was directed at one editor in particular-Tom Guthrie, Scottish-born, former RAF information officer, executive editor at The Plain Dealer since January 1972. In that post he is second only to Tom Vail on the editorial side. Guthrie once told Time magazine that he surveyed two London papers a day "just so I can read some decent English."
A management enemies list was informally compiled when Guthrie rose from the copy desk to his new-found prominence. It included several reporters considered troublemakers, misfits and ne'er-do-wells, among them hardcore Guildsmen. Guthrie decided to go after those on the list with vigor. Often, though, Guthrie's hot-tempered, headstrong reactions to problems that arose only provoked further unrest and even added new names to those on the list considered "troublemakers."
High on the list was an undistinguished reporter named J. Stephen Hatch. Hatch was unquestionably an acquired taste. He hailed from Altoona, Pennsylvania, not far from where the first Pennsylvania crude was drilled. What rankled many at the PD about Hatch was that he was Pennsylvania crude. His appearance, for instance, seemed calculated to give offense: a brawl-battered nose, straggly page-boy hair and mustache, Uncle Bill's mix-nmatch outfits. So did his demeanor. Hatch's lowlife fame stemmed from countless drunken exploits in the sleazy bars along Payne Avenue. Since his dismissal from the PD, he had returned to meatcutting, his trade prior to journalism. During the strike he continued at his job in a Bi-Rite supermarket in Brook Park, offering the strikers discounts on dayold ground beef.
Hatch's personal habits aside, Guthrie wanted his head on the butcher block for one reason: his Guild activity. Guthrie once suggested at an editors' conference that a tail be put on Hatch. an attempt to catch him working on company time at a brother's gas station. At other meetings ways to "set up" Hatch were discussed.
Always the hidebound unionist, Hatch is a vice president of Local One. It was while, he was acting in that capacity in early December 1973, on a Friday night that Hatch was off work, that the management cleaver fell. Hatch appeared at the PD's door, reportedly to urge fellow Guild members to attend a special meeting called to discuss the Bob Dolgan case. Tom Guthrie, a few days later, told Hatch he was fired. A few days before the strike U. S. District Judge Ben Green ruled that Hatch's dismissal could not be a basis for the Guild strike-since, the judge argued, the case was before a labor arbitrator. Judge Green added, however, that the matter could still be discussed at the bargaining table, and it was.
The judge issued the same ruling about the Dolgan case. Dolgan, now 42, was a pleasant young man who had grown up in an East Side ethnic neighborhood wanting to become a sportswriter. A worthy, if modest, ambition. He joined The Plain Dealer sports department in 1957 and four years later, he became a baseball writer. Three years after that he was fired for reportedly taking liberties with his expense account. But not before he had made his contribution to major league lore by tagging a 17-year-old Indians fastballer named McDowell with his nickname, Sudden Sam.'
Dolgan was rehired by the PD sports department in 1967. A pretty fair writer, he did some noteworthy columns and Sunday magazine sports articles. Before the 1972 strike, though, he got his own tag: company man. He alone stood up at a strike meeting and argued for accepting the management offer. Dolgah has since admitted to friends he made a mistake.
Life would probably have been fine for Dolgan had not Tom Guthrie spotted him. Guthrie had tried without success to woo Press columnist Dick Feagler to the PD. Insisting th