By: Mark Fitzgerald
Cleveland Plain Dealer Editor Doug Clifton, who announced his impending retirement Thursday, said Newhouse family ownership had made his eight years “a great newspaper experience.”
“Let me tell you, I have never been more impressed by a family, and their integrity and how they run their organization,” he said. “I don’t know what more I could have asked for. It’s not like we didn’t suffer our own revenue problems, and the need to do our own belt-tightening, but by comparison with the way other news organizations had to do, it was so much more doable, so much more humane.”
The Plain Dealer recently offered a voluntary buyout program that wasaccepted by 64 staffers. “It was probably the most generous buyout in newspaper history,” Clifton said.
His retirement, the subject of newsroom gossip for months, doesn’t signify a weariness with the newspaper business, Clifton insisted.
“If I were ten years younger, I would say this is just an extraordinary moment in the development of our business that requires creativity, and imagination, and new approaches to doing things while keeping the heart of what defines good journalism,” said Clifton, who will be 64 when he steps down June 1.
The Plain Dealer has “younger people who are fired up, and it’s their time to step up and do what I, on my best day, cold probably only wish to do. I recognize I’m of another era, and that can stand in the way of looking at things in totally new ways.”
Clifton said he was proudest of “changing the attitude of the paper.”
Though the Plain Dealer had a solid record of achievement when Clifton arrived in June of 1999, it also had a reputation for coddling some public figures it supported politically. Reporters complained, for instance, that City Hall could get stories quashed. Clifton unleashed investigative reporters on city government, fueling a long feud with former Mayor Michael White.
Clifton, who began his newspaper career and came to industry fame at The Miami Herald, said he still loves the Florida paper, but, “it’s funny, my time here at the Plain Dealer has almost eclipsed that.”
Clifton and his wife Peg are retiring to Middlebury, Vermont, where he said the namesake liberal arts college gives “this quintessential bucolic New England town the cultural aspects of a cosmopolitan place.”