Goodyear, Jobs and a Watchdog Press

I’ve said this many times. I look forward to getting the dead-tree edition of the Akron Beacon Journal every morning. The delivery guy, Bruce, drops it (and the dead-tree New York Times) on my porch generally a few minutes before 5 a.m. So I can take a quick glance at the headlines before hitting the concrete for the daily five-miler.

And the headline on the front page of the ABJ this morning — “Developer plans to change order of Goodyear project” — gave me plenty to think about as I weaved my way through the main roads and side streets in the dark.

I was thinking about the declining newspaper industry. There isn’t a day that goes by now that you can’t find a story — in print or online — pointing to the fact that the newspaper industry is in ruin: papers closing, moving all content online, ending distribution, reporters/editors being fired, once proud news bureaus shuttered and so on. And there are plenty of people now offering suggestions about what to do about it: end free content online, stop news aggregators like The Huffington Post and Google from profiting from the work of content-generators, reorganize newspapers as nonprofit foundations and so on.

Most people — unless you live in the journalism, public relations, social media echo chamber online in Twitter, media blogs and so on — don’t care one bit. And that’s a shame — because how are we going to know what is going on in our nation and in our local communities without a “watchdog” press? I suppose people like me — and thousands of others — could somehow enter the fray and do some original reporting. But I’m not sure how realistic that idea really is — particularly without some profit/earnings potential. Anyway, time will tell.

But in the meantime what about the Akron Beacon Journal, Goodyear and Akron-area jobs?

Folks, I believe that what happens in Akron with Goodyear — from the standpoint of plans to build a new headquarters and the 3,000 or so Goodyear employees who work here — is a big story. But the Beacon Journal sure isn’t doing much to cover it. And I don’t know why. No interest? Not enough resources these days? Muzzled? Who knows. But something doesn’t smell quite right here with this story and the way it is unfolding.

Goodyear announced in mid-February that it was going to slash another 5,000 jobs this year. But it wouldn’t say where or specifically when. That to me raises some concerns about the 3,000 or so Goodyear jobs in Akron currently.

Yet beyond those employees and members of their families — I guess no one else cares. There has not been a single reference to those people and jobs in the Akron Beacon Journal since then. Not in news stories. Not in an editorial. Not even in a letter to the editor — as best I can tell. And if this someone reading this knows that isn’t correct, please let me know.

And maybe I am being unfair to Goodyear management here. Perhaps the 3,000 or so Akron-based employees have been told that their jobs are safe. If so why not disclose it publicly? That, you would think, would be a relief to many in the community who are affected directly and indirectly. And it would put to rest what appears to be a legitimate concern about the viability of the headquarters project — now apparently set to lurch forward with some considerable public financing.

If not — if the 3,000 jobs are at risk and in play — then there is a statement in the ABJ story this morning that should raise some concerns. The story essentially looks at the headquarters project from the standpoint of financing, public money, timetable and so on. And these are complex issues. Yet I’ll admit that after reading the story I still have some reservations about the viability of the entire project — even given the assurances of Stuart Lichter, the head of Industrial Reality Group, the California-based firm leading the project.

Anyway — here’s the statement in the story:

The changes in the order of construction will help keep Goodyear in Akron, Lichter said. Once all parts of the complex deal are signed, Goodyear will remain obligated to stay in Akron and keep 2,900 jobs here, he and others said.

“Goodyear will remain obligated to stay in Akron and keep 2,900 jobs here.” Wow. That almost meets the definition of news. Yet the Beacon Journal reporters didn’t mention it in the context of the announced 5,000 job cuts — and no Goodyear official commented on it, at least in print.

OK. I hope Goodyear remains in Akron. I hope none of the jobs are cut here — or anywhere else for that matter. But I think we are dealing with an important public story here — and some engaged “watchdog” reporting would be helpful.

Otherwise, the discussions about the future and viability of a free press don’t really matter.

Do they?

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2 responses to “Goodyear, Jobs and a Watchdog Press

  1. I knew I could count on Rob Jewell to write a good meaty post on the blip of news that Ps me right off. The reporting on this story is so disjointed that it gives a clear stench of ‘something’s not right.’

    Maybe everything at GY is fine and dandy, maybe it’s as shady as it seems. Either way, you think GY PR would be doing SOMEthing to make it clear?

  2. Kait,

    Exactly. Tough to figure out what is going on here. And even more difficult to understand is why GY PR will not confirm that the 2,900 Goodyear jobs are staying in Akron — if true.

    If not true — then both the story in the ABJ yesterday and the editorial today are inaccurate and misleading.

    I agree: “something’s not right.”

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