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Most RNC Journalists Come And Go Without Telling Struggles Of Cleveland

Wikipedia Commons
An abandoned home in Cleveland. Like many Ohio cities, Cleveland has struggled with how to deal with thousands of vacant houses.

The city of Cleveland spent a lot of time and money trying to impress the thousands of journalists who rushed into the city for the Republican National Convention. While the focus was on politics downtown, many lower-income neighborhoods continued to struggle.

But that was hard to tell by much of the reporting.

Bobby Patton, a promotions Assistant with WHUR in Washington, D.C., stayed in at an Air BnB in Richmond Heights just east of the city. He says his only chance to see Cleveland outside of downtown is while Ubering back and forth.

“Cleveland it is an interesting city and has a great downtown but once you get from downtown - you can see some areas that are in need of help. Houses that are abandon, and a couple blocks later there is new development. So it is kind of weird to see that.”

But that part of story - about the boom and bust cycle in the RNC host city - isn’t being reported on his station’s airwaves, says Patton.

“We focus on the event and give our listeners what is going on with these politicians at the event so they can be more informed when they cast their vote, versus coming to visit Cleveland.”

Patton's station isn't the only one mostly focused on the convention and demonstrations.

“The truth of the matter is most journalists, they come to a city, they parachute in, they are in the nice areas - they are there for three or four days  and parachute out - they don't see the rest of the city,” says blogger Rich Rubion from the Boston area.

“They stay within five or 10 miles and it is very hard for people because they don't think of going around and exploring the lesser economic areas.”

Fergus Nicoli is a radio journalist who spent the week reporting for the UK program Business Matters. He was one of the few journalists covering economic disparities in Cleveland.

“That is the number one reason for Business Matters being in Cleveland. Of course we are covering the convention, so it’s handy for us.

“And that has helped us a lot because you have the politicians talking about the economy. So what we are trying to figure out whether this city represents what they are talking about whether Cleveland is typical of American towns.”

Jeff Mapes reports on politics for Oregon Public Broadcasting. This is his second time in Cleveland and he sees some improvements but says a lot of work still needs to be done. 

“Cleveland, you have to understand, was on the ropes in the national imagination - Detroit-like - so the signs you are seeing for urban renaissance, you are seeing, are encouraging, but to say they are back all the way obviously is not the case at all.”

The BBC’s Nicoll and his crew have seen what Mapes is talking about. They left downtown for the Cleveland’s health corridor and then on to East Cleveland.

He's interviewed Mount Olivet Baptist Church Pastor Jawanz Colvin and City Councilman Zak Reed to get a better take on the city. He says listeners who tune into his program are interested in the issues affecting Cleveland.

“A lot of what we are reporting, we find mirror what is going on in other cities and countries, so I think people empathize with that.”

Nicoll believes you can't really understand the national election politics unfolding in Cleveland if you don't appreciate local history.

But many journalists wrapped up their coverage and headed to Philadelphia for the Democratic convention without that chance to report that story.