The glacial Cincinnati springtime of 1992 was like an ice cube down my back — cold, wet and surprising. When I moved here from sunny Tucson, Ariz., to become editorial page editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer, I hardly had time to unpack my obnoxious opinions before two remarkable things happened.

The CEO of then-Cincinnati Gas & Electric received a dozen black roses from someone at Tucson Electric Power Co., a “Beware of Bronson” warning as subtle as a dead horse’s head on a pillow.

And, I received a Cincinnati Magazine Best of the City award for being the “New Broom” at the Enquirer.

Of the two, the roses were more explicable. My Tucson Citizen columns busted the local utility executives for ripping off ratepayers, chasing strippers and plundering the company. So, black roses? If you have to spell “adios” with four-letter words, say it with flowers.

But “new broom”? I hadn’t even swept the tumbleweeds out of my suitcase. It was as mystifying as giving President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for not being George W. Bush.

I think that was the point. The award was congratulating me for not being “Mr. Whig,” the Enquirer’s 30-year editorial page editor, Thomas Gephardt (a fine wit and a good man). Cincinnati staffers just naturally assumed the new guy was a liberal like nearly everyone else in the media, which is as unanimously left-handed as a Michael Moore dinner party.

But they circled the welcome wagons when they found out I was annoyingly conservative.

I found out you have to choose sides. It was the eye-rolling press versus that starched prude, Cincinnati. Right to Life, Citizens for Community Values, the Mapplethorpe case, the persecution of Larry Flynt — would the embarrassments never end?

No wonder estranged conservatives sued for divorce. Your typical West-sider wants to be “more like New York” the way the pope wants to be more like David Letterman. But they look in the local paper and see the New York Times staring back at them.

Big media is a quart low on credibility everywhere. It’s hardly breaking news that Cincinnati’s morning daily is not the sleek Cadillac it was 10 or 20 years ago. If circulation declines are an oil stain on the driveway, the drip is coming from a steady leak of trust. There is no longer an acknowledged, respected voice of leadership in local media.

“That’s just not there anymore,” Bill Cunningham told me on his 700WLW talk show. “We can’t fill that role. We just skim the surface.”

WCPO Station Manager Bill Fee says, “The death of the Post in 2007 and the circulation problems of the Enquirer mirror what’s happening nationally. This has definitely changed the local media landscape.”

Phil Burress, who has often worn the media “kick me” sign as leader of Citizens for Community Values, is glad to hear it. “We don’t need a leading voice to tell us what to think,” he says. “The media have abused their power of being the leading voice. ... Print is going out of business nationally because there’s a huge gap between what the people want and believe and what the media wants and believes.”

I feel strongly both ways. Too many transplanted bosses alienated the city by acting like Cincinnati’s conservative DNA was a birth defect. But, I agree with former Enquirer reporter and CityBeat media critic Ben Kaufman, who says that when newspapers crater, they leave a huge hole.

“The Enquirer still is the major player, weakened and shrunken as it is,” he says. “Its hard news — politics, police, courts, government — are still strong, if not stronger than when there was staff and room for fluff. Cultural coverage has suffered, but it was declining for years. The paper still provides most of the local news in its circulation area and hasn’t lost sight of local news as its franchise.”

Reports of its demise are exaggerated. But this year, the Enquirer was a bubble team on Cincy’s Power 100 list. Publisher Margaret Buchanan is probably the most “Cincinnati” publisher in two decades of Gannettoids, but none can stand in the footprints left by Bill Keating.

I thought about that when I heard the same conversation about Cincinnati’s new Archbishop Dennis Schnurr. Some conservative Catholics describe departing Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk as lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. He took stout stands against the ordination of women and the corpses on parade at the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Bodies exhibit, but his nuanced support to repeal Cincinnati’s ban on gay rights “was on the wrong side of that issue,” according to one Catholic activist.

Catholics may use words like “tradition” and “orthodoxy,” but they are talking about the same yearning for institutions more rooted in Cincinnati. It’s the same hope for a voice that speaks the local language — the same battle for the city’s heart and soul.

But nature abhors a vacuum the way a politician abhors an unspent dime. The church found its new broom, and that media pulpit won’t be empty for long.

Send your bouquets of black roses to me at, call (513) 297-6201, or, check out my blog,