Curly tales of the city

Porkopolis

Winners and LosersThe vultures have already begun to circle around Mayor Charlie Luken, who's been receiving both praise and criticism for his handling of the city's racial tensions, police conduct, the unrest following Timothy Thomas' shooting, the curfew, the Reds' so-so start and the cool spring weather.

Luken was judged a Loser of the Week by Time magazine, which said, "Cincinnati mayor lets riot go three days before acting. Hope unemployment office didn't burn." Ouch!

More supportive was The Enquirer's April 23 front-page pity party for the beleaguered mayor, whose rough past few weeks were temporarily soothed, the article said, by a friend who took Luken and other council members out for a beer. No mention of when that friend would be taking Cincinnati's seething African-American community out for a beer.

Luken, once seen as a shoe-in for this fall's "strong mayor" election, may instead be on his way out, if Time is to be believed. Who's interested in taking on hizzoner in November?

The buzz is that Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell might be interested in coming home to run against Luken. Blackwell is a former Cincinnati mayor and has gone as far as he can in statewide Republican politics.

What better job can he find than rebuilding his hometown with the trust and support of both the African-American and the business communities? Republicans, who haven't yet been able to find anyone to run against Luken, would be all over Blackwell, who was conspicuous in his presence at Thomas' funeral.

Conspicuous for his absence at Thomas' funeral was Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk. The governor attended. The mayor attended. Ministers from many Christian denominations attended. But where was the head of Southwest Ohio's Catholics? "He wasn't invited," says archdiocesan spokesman Dan Andriacco.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. spent part of the afternoon of April 20 scowling from behind the big glass wall at the Justice Center. A handful of protesters had gathered, calling for an end to racism in Cincinnati. Leis locked down the jail, refusing to let visitors see inmates "for security and so forth," according to sheriff's spokesman Steve Barnett. Seeing Leis glower at the protesters, a reporter held a sign to the glass: "Sheriff, how about an interview?" Leis shook his head no. The reporter then made a gesture asking for a phone interview. Leis shook his head no.

Post Partum Blues
Local journalism watchers were caught off guard April 23 when The Cincinnati Post's top two people, Editor Paul Knue and Managing Editor Bob Kraft, announced they were leaving the paper. Knue's retirement was trumpeted on the front page, which said city editor Mike Philipps will become editor May 1. Kraft's decision wasn't mentioned.

The timing of the departures is curious, considering Knue and Kraft were in charge of cutting 20 jobs at The Post, or 18 percent of the paper's workforce. The paper's parent, E.W. Scripps Co., had announced the job cuts a few weeks ago because of declining ad revenues. If 20 staffers with at least 10 years' experience at The Post didn't take buyout packages and leave, the company said, layoffs would be necessary. (Knue and Kraft are management and aren't effected by the buyout/layoff offer.)

Why the sudden departures? After all, Knue has been editor of The Kentucky Post and/or The Cincinnati Post for more than 20 years, and he didn't even give two weeks' notice.

The No. 1 story in journalism circles these days is Jay Harris, the San Jose Mercury News publisher who quit in a huff last month because the paper's parent, Knight Ridder, ordered him to cut staff to increase profit margins. Harris said he wouldn't risk his or the paper's journalistic integrity by operating with a seriously depleted editorial staff.

Did Knue and Kraft come to the same conclusion about running a paper crippled by staff cuts? Did they not have the stomach to lay off 20 people from what's long been a sinking ship? Or did they independently decide on the same day "it's time to do something else," as Knue was quoted in the paper?

Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 23) or [email protected]

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