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Your biggest chance ever to help us get better: George Rodrigue

June 10, 2018 GMT

Your biggest chance ever to help us get better: George Rodrigue

As our industry changes, we’re trying to increase the value of every square inch in The Plain Dealer. Increasingly, we’re doing this in partnership with our readers. And we’re about to do it again.

Several months ago, more than 1,000 readers filled out a simple survey in which we asked what was most on their minds. The overwhelming answers were health, wellness and financial security in old age — for themselves in some cases, for their parents in others.

We responded by creating a new coverage area, which we call “Living On.” Hundreds of readers have thanked us for those stories, and shared tips on what else we should be writing about.


Now, we’re giving more subscribers a chance to share more insights, with a new survey significantly different from the research we’ve done before.

In the past, we’ve often asked readers about the paper. This time we’re asking readers about themselves. We’re hoping to learn more about what matters to members of our community, so that we can find more ways to offer more valuable coverage.

A more traditional survey might ask how you feel about the paper. This one will ask how you feel about things like public safety, taxes and quality of life. 

A traditional survey might show you two or three alternatives to things we are doing now, and ask you to choose your favorite among them. This one will help us discover things that we might not be covering at all, but should be.

This may be your best chance in years to help us create a newspaper that better fits your needs.

A survey like this takes a little bit of time, but it could pay an immediate dividend. We’re offering $200 Visa  gift cards to three folks who complete the survey (Legal disclaimer: Or who choose instead to send us a postcard to enter the drawing).

Even if you don’t win the $200, your help will have a long-term payoff. Other newspapers that have gone through similar processes have launched coverage efforts such as:

A “solutions” reporter, who tells the story of how other places have fixed problems afflicting her home town.A fact-checking beat, holding local leaders accountable for the things they say and do.A values beat, built around the questions of ethics and morality that tie a community together.A neighborhoods beat, focusing on how younger people are changing parts of an older city.A public safety beat, aimed not at covering crime but at covering ways to reduce it.A “city that never was” beat, covering all the things that were planned but did not happen.And, of course, classic watchdog and investigations beats, on topics that mattered to their readers.


Here in Cleveland we’ll build our own plans, based on the insights you share with us. 

Circumstances, mostly involving the loss of advertising dollars over the years, have forced us to become smaller. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be better. 

We’re committed to doing everything we can to bring you a paper that looks out for your interests. We hope you can find time to tell us more about them.

To take our survey, go to: bit.ly/PDSurvey2018.

Rodrigue is president and editor of The Plain Dealer.