CINCINNATI (TDB) -- People with stars in their eyes, Hollywood star George Clooney to be exact, are openly yearning he'll swoop into his hometown like an ER doc and staunch the bleeding at Ohio's last afternoon metropolitan daily newspaper, The Cincinnati Post. The rumor gained currency this week when the city's alt/weekly City Beat said it had heard Clooney might be angling for The Post in order to make his journalist father, Nick, the publisher.
City Beat called it "most intriguing" and unconfirmed and let it go in two sentences, but that was enough to start a quiet buzz.
George Clooney is progressive, loaded and has been around journalism all his life. His father was a TV anchorman and now writes a column for The Post, which is near the expiration of a 30-year joint operating agreement with The Cincinnati Enquirer, a morning daily that is the combo's economically stronger partner. The Enquirer leans Republican; the Post Democratic. Concern about its possible demise as an alternative voice is fueling some of the rumors/hopes that George Clooney is on stage left waiting to open his wallet. Nick's column regularly scores the GOP, specifically the Bush Administration, although he's not a firebrand. Nick dropped the column a few years back to run as a Democrat for a congressional seat in Northern Kentucky. He lost and rejoined the green eyeshade crowd.
George, of course, has this well-known thing about quality journalism. He had writer's credits on Good Night & Luck, picked up an Oscar for his on-screen portrayal of Edward R. Murrow' producer, and took j-school classes in college. On the Newshour a few year ago, he talked about growing up in the newsroom at Channel 12, WKRC-TV in Cincinnati, where his dad was becoming an on-air anchor desk legend. Another thing going for the rumor -- Hollywood mogul David Geffen wants to buy a big newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, which is supposed to signal that the rich and famous still see some value in the sheets that roll off America's printing presses.
So, can the Post be saved? I think George could do it.
If I was writing a memo, I'd say convert it to a tab to make it thicker and give it a sense of heft. Get Nick's column across the bottom of the front page, or tease it and promote the hell out of it. Load the inside with strong voices and opinions that say something, not mumble and mutter, hem and haw. And pick the progressive side to clearly distinguish The Post from the Enquirer.
Force the paper to develop a sense of place, and also some pizazz. Use pictures well, especially on the front page like a true tab. Pictures galore.
Scrap the hackneyed, standardized journalism and grab some new news. Check out the blogs every day and see what's bubbling -- they are often way ahead. Why not try out 'sphere stories like Ann Coulter and the Faggot incident? People would read for sure. Or Gore's big electric bill. Is that common in Ohio? What's the Duke Energy average? Or Mike Huckabee saying he's got a concealed carry permit -- a story about the pistol-packin' GOP presidential candidate would be a great read and headline.
And switch it to a morning newspaper with a strong Internet presence, so strong it reaches way beyond Cincinnati.
Would it work? Obviously the tired formulas newspapers are using today aren't.