Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pluto leaving ABJ takes passion out of paper

Kudos to Ed Esposito and the gang at AkronNewsNows for breaking the story of Terry Pluto leaving the ABJ for the Plain Dealer. I haven't spoken to Terry yet, and he might not be ready to talk publicly about it, so I don't know what his reasons are .. but I do know that it's a big blow to the paper and beyond. (2:45 p.m. UPDATE: I just spoke briefly to Terry and while he's not really allowed to talk publicly about this move, he did tell me that it's a good opportunity for him and not any kind of reflection on the ABJ as being in trouble. He's sounds very happy with the move. I'm sure he'll share more when he can down the road.)

My first thought is to wish Terry well. He's one of the most genuine men you'll ever meet, and that has nothing to do with his writing. He truly cares about helping people as evidence by his volunteer work at the county jail. His honesty about fighting the demons in his life helped others, and his friendship with the late Casey Coleman, among others, highlights his true heart.

My second thought is that the move won't affect the readers as much as it will the paper and ohio.com. Readers will still have easy access to Pluto's work via the PD and the web. He'll still be covering the same teams and areas that he's done so well at the ABJ. If you want to find him, he'll be there.

As for the paper, wow! There are some holes you can fill and others you have to just rope off so no one falls in and gets hurt. This is one of them. Terry's writings are the most read articles of both the paper and Ohio.com. Far and away the most. His free weekly e-newsletter has nearly 2,000 subscribers alone. Readers like Terry and make an appointment to read his thoughts.

Professionally, Terry's work stands out because of his passion. He pulls his hair out (work with me here folks) just as the rest of us do when our teams fall apart. He cheers when our athletes reach beyond their years. He's honest about what works and doesn't .. and even when he's wrong (he's mentioned several times how he blew it supporting the Ferry-Harper trade), he writes about it with passion.

Passion is big when it comes to connecting readers with a paper. Don't believe me? Remember back to earlier this summer when the country stopped for eight days in the search for Jessie Marie Davis. The beacon had team coverage and nailed the high points, but didn't you feel something missing? Know what it was? David Giffels.

Giffels' absence (he's writing a book and will be back in 08) isn't noticeable by content as much as it's noticeable by how it feels. The paper misses his passion.

Now, multiply that feeling of loss as Pluto heads north. Just as a marriage without passion is just going through the motions, readers who don't feel passion in their hometown paper won't connect to it the same way either -- even if they keep picking it up each day.

It's too soon to know whether the PD is simply smelling blood and trying to bury its competition while the time is right or whether this was simply a good move for Terry as he considers his future options.

Still, if you thought Akron seemed smaller in 1996 when it lost it's only local TV station (WAKC), you'll feel this town shrinking exponentially with the ABJ's continued contraction.


Anonymous said...

This is a huge loss for the Beacon Journal. I have always believed that the Beacon's sports section was superior to the Plain Dealer due to writers like Terry. Even if we have access to his articles, they are bound to have a Cleveland focus rather than an Akron one.
His current role allowed for
him to write on local issues
that were important to our community.
I am fairly certain that the Beacon's status probably had an influence on his leaving. This is a loss for the city as well and one with no replacement.

I hope Terry explains why he left

Anonymous said...

No passion? Did you miss this by Beacon reporter Kim Hone-Mcmahan?

A letter to Patty Porter
Dear Patty:

Let me begin by telling you how very sorry I am for your loss. As a bereaved mother myself, my thoughts are with you as you say a final goodbye to Jessie and Chloe.

During a press conference last week, I was struck by an answer you gave when a reporter asked how you were dealing with the double loss of your daughter and unborn grandchild. It's a query only someone who hasn't been through the most horrific loss imaginable would ask. Naturally, you responded with grace.

``I don't know if there are even words to express the heartache.''

Nearly four years ago, I woke on a sunny summer morning, went to my daughter's room, and found Brooke dead. Some 10 hours earlier, she had taken her last breath during a seizure. The gruesome discovery was a shock. Yet, unlike you, I immediately knew where my daughter was, and, though unexpected, how she died. I was graciously spared an added burden that she had been murdered.

During the calling hours, friends, family and people I barely knew filed through the doors of the funeral home. A neighbor leaned in and whispered, ``There are no words.''

When people asked me how I was coping, I remembered the comment from my friend. How do you explain a pain so horrific it seems to crush your lungs, starving off cleansing breaths? That the heaviness in your chest clouds your thinking. And that the kindness of others, who share your love of God and family, brings you to your knees.

Instantly, I longed to talk with a bereaved mother or father who could relate to my loss. I wanted them to tell me that the suffering would be gone next month, a year from now, or even 10. Instead, they said time heals. I hated hearing that then, and still do. Eventually, I reasoned that if I had not loved Brooke as deeply as I had, I would not be hurting so badly. And, certainly, I didn't want to love any less. Somehow, that realization helped me accept some of the heartache.

Expectant parents are flooded with information about how to care for a newborn, but no one prepares us for burying a child. I wish I could absorb some of your grief. Because it has diminished a bit since taking residence in my soul, perhaps I could take on some of the burden. But no one can do that for you. Instead, I can only offer you advice.

It's OK to be mad that Jessie is gone. I released some of the tension by going into the woods, picking up a stick, whacking it against the trees and calling Brooke's name.

Ignore the comments about how strong you are in the midst of tragedy. People simply don't understand that you have no other choice.

Don't dwell on the ``what ifs.'' While it's normal to do so, it's fruitless and changes nothing.

If you don't want anyone to hear your sobs, cry in the shower or into your pillow. Wherever you choose, weep; it relieves pressure.

Realize that the sorrow visible in the eyes of strangers is compassion and not pity.

Now, everyone is talking about Jessie and Chloe. At some point, folks may be reluctant to mention them by name in fear that it will bring you more pain. In reality, not doing so is, in essence, erasing them from existence, their memories gone with the final beat of their hearts. So, encourage people to say their names.

I've always said that those living in Northeast Ohio have big hearts. That when someone is in need, our community responds -- whether it be raising money for a organ transplant, buying a new fire truck for the citizens of New York or looking for someone's lost child. If you find yourself needing their help again, don't hesitate to ask. If the people of this region can't help financially, they will answer your call, as you've already witnessed, with kindness.

It's true that your life is forever altered, but someday you will laugh again, and not feel guilty doing so. Until that day, cling to your faith. God weeps with you.

Love, Kim

Eric Mansfield said...

Kim's a great writer ... and a great person too. But she doesn't get to write this type of prose every day. And even those in the BJ newsroom will tell you that Terry is regarded and read at a different level. He's just that good.

My comments aren't meant to look down on the BJ staff but rather to show how high of a level Terry's writing is .. and how much he'll be missed.

But again, Kim's tops in my book.

Stay in touch .. Eric

Colin Morris said...

Two points for mentioning Giffels. You didn't hear it from me, but we're all being starved without him.