Cleveland Belongs to Doris,We Just Live Here

ODonnell_D-mrFront Page Girl, by Doris O’Donnell

(The Kent State University Press)

Doris O’Donnell Beaufait is the alpha and omega in Storytellers’ current project, aptly named “Doris O’Donnell’s Cleveland.” Her 2006 memoir, “Front Page Girl,” is the source of all the inside stories Doris has to tell about this city when it was on the make and on the move. Hers is a tale of a pretty and poised young woman wading into the all-male, smokey, clubby circle of newspaper reporters. The WWII draft had pretty well tapped newsrooms of men, so by 1946, The Cleveland News had no choice but to hire women.

But the paper got more than they bargained for – Doris broke down walls and became one of the best known and most read reporters of her day. While other women were assigned the social scene or church news, Doris moved from writing obits right to the city desk to cover the police beat. She did stunt stories, like riding a circus elephant, then seamlessly moved on to penetrate the Iron Curtain in 1956 to cover the secretive and paranoid Soviet Union.

In a 2008 Scene story by James Renner, Doris claims the trouble with today’s media is the unwillingness of reporters to get away from their computer, and go wear out some shoe leather:

They never leave the office. I was invited to mayors’ houses. We’d drink with them. When I went back to The Plain Dealer in 1991, their reporters got in late, then went out to lunch. They never went to the courts, never tried to get info from lawyers. You know why they couldn’t find the people who could tell them about this story before it happened? They don’t know what bars they drink at.

Hear, hear.

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