Q&A: Tom Breckenridge, Board President of The Land

Veteran journalist Tom Breckenridge wrote for The Plain Dealer for nearly 30 years. Tom is now recently retired from corporate communications and is helming The Land’s board of directors. We caught up with him for a quick Q&A about his passion for Cleveland and local journalism.

Why did you decide to join The Land’s board? Why are you passionate about local journalism?

Photo courtesy of Tom Breckenridge.

Photo courtesy of Tom Breckenridge.

Too many people aren’t getting the community news they need and want due to the disruption of traditional news media. I saw it first hand as a reporter at The Plain Dealer. Nonprofit news sites like The Land are helping fill the news void here and in a growing number of communities nationwide. And they are doing it with a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in their coverage and their newsrooms.

You worked at The Plain Dealer for almost 30 years, helping to shape the city’s news coverage. What do you miss about working as a reporter?

Number one is my newsroom colleagues. Smart, passionate folks, many of whom are friends for life. As for journalism, I really miss talking with people and writing their stories in a way that makes a positive difference in the community.

What do you miss the least?

Deadlines. My hair turned white when I was 30.

You just retired after seven and a half years at Medical Mutual. Tell us about your role there and what it was like versus being a reporter.

I was a communications specialist with duties that included a weekly newsletter and media relations. Medical Mutual is a great place to work, but my transition was a bit rocky. In a corporate setting, you quickly learn that teamwork and collaboration are key. As a reporter, I was pretty much left to my own devices. So, yeah, learning to row together with new colleagues was a big adjustment. That, and putting a lid on the blue language that is stress relief in a newsroom but unacceptable in a corporate setting.

The Land’s mission is to write about Cleveland’s neighborhoods. These stories often don’t get told. Why do you think this is important? What are we missing by not telling these stories?

Telling stories that inform and engage people, and even move them to act, strengthens neighborhoods. A great example is a recent story The Land and the Northeast Ohio Solutions Journalism Collaborative had a hand in producing. The story, written by Dan Poletta, focused on eviction and other challenges renters face during the pandemic in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood. A reader responded with a $50,000 donation to Slavic Village Development for rental and business assistance. Wow! That’s stunning generosity, and it wouldn’t have happened without a story from the neighborhood.

Word on the street is you’re an avid craft beer fan. What are some of your favorites?

Barrel-aged Blackout Stout at Great Lakes Brewing in Ohio City, Bone Head Red India Pale Ale at Fat Head’s Brewery in Middleburg Heights, and MacTavish Wee Heavy at Brick & Barrel on Columbus Road in the Flats. Northeast Ohio has a fantastic craft beer scene that’s growing, so I’m eager to discover many more favorites.

How can people get involved in or help support The Land?

If you haven’t already, check out The Land and subscribe to the newsletter. Like us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and like and share the neighborhood stories we post. If you like what you read of The Land’s free content, join hundreds of others and make a tax-deductible donation. Keep an eye out — we’ll be launching a membership drive soon! Let us know if you’d like to get involved with The Land, and thank you for your support of The Land and community journalism.

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