Is the Sun Newspaper chain over?

Today I got my copy of the Sun Press — the suburban newspaper for the area where I live. It’s part of a chain called Sun Newspapers, owned by the same corporation that owns The Plain Dealer, our daily newspaper here in Cleveland.

The Sun chain has undergone some drastic changes since August, when it laid off most of its staff and moved the remainder to the headquarters of cleveland.com, where they pump out content for The Plain Dealer and the Sun papers at non-union rates of pay. Several more got laid off last week. I know because I know some of these people. Good journalists all. Now they’re looking for something else to do.

Meanwhile, I am a regular reader of the paper, and I’m also doing research on it, as part of a project I’m doing to compare the “sense of place” in the three hyperlocal publications that serve our area. Yes, you heard right: there are three. However, two of them have been self-destructing in the past six months, which is complicating the research, but I think it’s also making it even more interesting. Someone needs to document these changes, don’t you think?

Anyway, as Regular Reader Carrie, I was perusing my Sun Press this week and a couple of stories seemed really familiar. I picked up The Plain Dealer from the preceding day and voila! There they were. It was deja vu, literally!

For those who want evidence, two stories that I noticed right off were: “All 3 Cuyahoga County levies are approved” and “Phone app helps track 3 suspected of robbing woman.” When I posted this on Facebook, a friend noted that the Police Blotter in the Sun is the same as the one that appears in The Plain Dealer, as well.

The rules about this are pretty clear, in journalism, and have not changed: If you are republishing something you previously ran, you say so. Be honest about it! Another way of stating this rule is: You don’t publish one story in two different publications for which you are charging people. They expect fresh content.

To do anything else is unethical — even if you own both publications.

I did wonder what the plan was, when the Sun chain laid off most of its staff and The Plain Dealer got rid of a third of its newsroom too. I now see what the plan is. I don’t like it.

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About Carrie Buchanan

Journalism and communication professor, Canadian, now living and teaching in the United States. Longtime journalist in Canada, primarily for the Ottawa Citizen.
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