How we made a difference in Greater Cleveland in 2018: Chris Quinn
How we made a difference in Greater Cleveland in 2018: Chris Quinn
Nothing is more important to us at cleveland.com than our public service work, and we’ve never had more impact than in 2018. I couldn’t be more proud of the what journalists here accomplished this year, and I gladly offer you this year-end report on a bunch of our efforts.
Let’s start with Open Table, more recently known as Community of Hope. This is the effort headed up by Amber Donovan, in which groups of seven or eight people become boards of directors for young adults who have aged out of foster care, usually someone in poverty. They meet with the young adult for an hour a week, becoming their advocates, coaches and friends.
I met Amber for the first time last Dec. 21, as we were searching for a movement to champion as part of the project we call A Greater Cleveland. In the project, launched months earlier, we set out to tell the stories of people in poverty in Cleveland, aiming to inspire the generous people of Northeast Ohio to get behind an effort to break the poverty cycle.
After an hour with Amber, I knew her model was our answer. We held an open house in our office about it in February, attended by more than 300 people, and last week, Amber launched her 43rd table. She has another 100-plus people waiting to join the movement, which is partly funded by Cuyahoga County.
Separately, after learning about Amber’s work, MetroHealth Systems CEO Akram Boutros began an Open Table effort and is on his way to launching 15 tables by the end of next year. Reporter Leila Atassi is embedded in one of them and will begin bringing you her stories in 2019.
Take a moment to think about the meaning of this, though. Hundreds of people, all willing and eager to give up an hour a week to help someone they don’t even know, and cleveland.com helped get them together. Talk about an impact. The movement continues to grow.
The Right to be Forgotten
With cleveland.com’s right-to-be-forgotten experiment, we are removing names from dated stories about minor crimes and other embarrassing news. cleveland.com
Our Right-to-be-Forgotten experiment also continues to grow, too. This is the effort to help people who are embarrassed by stories on our site about non-violent crimes they committed or mistakes they made.
Because our platform is so big, our stories often are the first to show up in search engines like Google. If we wrote a story about your embarrassing mistake and someone – a friend, family member or prospective employer -- searches for your name, the first thing they see likely is our story.
Earlier this year, we began granting requests to remove names from stories about crimes in which people successfully petitioned a court to seal their records. A few months later, we formed a committee to consider requests in cases where records are not sealed or which did not involve crimes.
The reaction to this experiment has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’re expanding it again. Until now, you had to email us to get your case considered. As of today, we have this online form you can fill out, from your desktop or laptop computer, tablet or phone.
Click here to load this Caspio Cloud Database
And in 2019, we’ll provide a flyer about what we are doing to be distributed by the court at expungement seminars, to help as many people as possible
Out of Line - Rich Exner’s successful gerrymandering project
State lawmakers are once again considering a plan to ask voters to approve changing the way New Jersey draws its legislative map. (Getty Images) Getty Imag
I’ve written previously about our Out of Line gerrymandering project, and it’s another of our successes in 2018. Our data expert, Rich Exner, began the project in 2017, aiming to build momentum for changing how Ohio draws Congressional districts.
When Rich started, not many people were talking about gerrymandering, but his stories sparked a widespread conversation. Legislators in Columbus finally put together a proposal, but Rich’s reporting pointed out how that flawed plan would maintain gerrymandering, and then the legislators did something they rarely do. The Republicans and Democrats worked together on a proposal that actually could curtail gerrymandering, and Ohio voters approved it last spring.
Others were integral to getting this done, including the League of Women Voters, but most will tell you that absent Rich’s work, we likely would not have arrived where we are.
Columnist Mark Naymik’s watchdog work on Ken Johnson
Cleveland Councilman Ken Johnson has been the subject of more than a dozen columns by Mark Naymik, an example of cleveland.com’s watchdog journalism. Mark Naymik, cleveland.com
Watchdog work is key to our public service, and we have several examples that show us at our best. One is the series of columns by Mark Naymik about all sorts of financial irregularities involving Cleveland City Councilman Ken Johnson.
The number of ways the councilman is bending the system is stupefying, and Mark’s work has sparked an FBI investigation. This is the third FBI investigation Mark’s reporting has sparked. The first two resulted in criminal convictions. We’ll see what happens with this one.
Adam Ferrise and Courtney Astolfi investigate the jail
The Cuyahoga County jail at the Justice Center, photographed on Wednesday, June 26, 2012.
The other is the work by reporters Adam Ferrise and Courtney Astolfi about the Cuyahoga County Jail. They began digging in after learning six people had died in a few months – the number is now seven – and long before the U.S. Marshals Service released a devastating report on jail conditions.
The Marshals investigation detailed what was wrong, and reporting by Courtney and Adam identified the lapses in planning by county officials the resulted in the jail being one of the worst in the nation. This is a continuing story, and the reporters continue to bring you information you can find no where else.
The jail story is related to another of our long-term efforts, Justice For All, in which we have pushed for reforming the county’s bail and criminal justice system. The project, which began more than two years ago, helped launch work by everyone involved in the courts to make the system fair for all. As it is, the system discriminates against the poor. For 18 months or so, the effort moved forward, under the careful hand of the county’s chief judge.
But it has stalled, and the failure to reform the system is one of the reasons the jail is so crowded. If judges had moved more quickly, fewer prisoners would have been in the jail this year, and maybe fewer would have died as a result.
So in 2019, we will become more aggressive in pushing for the implementation of the reforms that everyone seems to agree are needed. If need be, we will make a call for reform-minded candidates to oppose incumbent judges in the 2020 Democratic primary.
We also had announced a while back that we would get behind the movement to make Cleveland a Say Yes To Education City, meaning every student graduating from high school in the city would get the means to go to college. We have not done much with this in 2018 because the effort has been underground all year, as supporters sought to raise the more than $100 million that’s needed for it.
We’re going to take this off our plate in 2019. We’ll be pivoting our resources to provide as much content as possible on the multiple efforts under way to chart a smart economic future for the region. The Say Yes effort appears to be doing well without us, and we expect an announcement about it early in 2019.
A Christmas concert for seniors
Hayden Grove performed Christmas hits during a concert that was broadcast on cleveland.com’s Facebook page Dec. 11. You can see it on the cleveland.com home page on Christmas Day. Hayden Grove, cleveland.com
Finally, public service does not come solely from the content we produce. It comes from being a part of this community. I can think of no finer example of that than reporter Hayden Grove’s appearance this month at a nursing home, to sing Christmas Carols to the residents. They loved it.
Hayden is a millennial who sings in the crooning style of Frank Sinatra. We covered the concert on Facebook Live, and on Christmas Day, we will feature a video of the concert on our home page all day. Check out Hayden’s YouTube channel or his album of Christmas songs on iTunes.