Plain Dealer writer wags finger over Traficant, Vindicator

By Todd Franko

Connie Schultz from the Cleveland Plain Dealer can give a pretty steely stare.

She also wags a good index finger as well.

Based on the skill and precision with which she stares and wags, I have to believe that the noted columnist, author and wife of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has plenty of experience.

She may possibly be the Tiger Woods of staring and wagging. I got both.

Tuesday night, I was a part of a great event at Youngstown State University as moderator of a panel that discussed Youngstown’s image as portrayed by the national media. Connie was among the event’s three panelists, along with Campbell native Marilyn Geewax, who works for National Public Radio.

The result of the 90-minute session attended by more than 150 people was that yes, we as a region have our problems, but they are problems shared by many cities. Yet, we’ve had them for so long, and followed an era of presumed invulnerability, that we have become a poster child for the fall of American industry. And media loves a poster child.

We also have great attributes unrelated to our struggles, as well as those character aspects born from our struggles. We have to tell that story. Media, in addition to loving poster children, loves surprises — and happy endings.

In telling our good story, we must also stop celebrating and embracing aspects of our negative history as if each is a badge of honor.

Connie pounced on this point as it transitioned into a chat on imprisoned former U.S. Rep. Jim Traficant. Connie wagged her finger, saying the newspaper has a role in making sure the former congressman is not celebrated.

That generated some applause.

She went further, saying that if people care about this community, then when Traficant gets out of prison, he should be encouraged to just shut up and quietly move on with the rest of his life and not draw attention to himself or Youngstown.

The wag made me think she saw our recent front page story about Jimbo T-shirts, etc., and that she wasn’t impressed by it.

Many other readers were also not impressed by our Traficant coverage. I took several phone calls.

Look, there’s not much interest on our part in “celebrating” Traficant. At least, I don’t have much interest.

But there’s a job we have in reporting what you do.

You are the news.

And when people choose to celebrate Traficant, it is part of who you are and, therefore, will be part of our newspaper.

Now, in making such events part of the paper and the daily dialogue, we need to have balance and diverse opinions.

If we reported only the pro-Traficant aspect of our community, you could then label us destructive or biased.

But to not show that such an element exists in our town would also, in a way, be biased and destructive.

Traficant will be released (perhaps “unleashed” might be a better word) later this year. We will try our best to avoid too many more wagged fingers from Connie and everyone else.

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