“5 questions with” is a series we created so you can learn more about Signal Cleveland’s beat reporters.
Nick Castele joins us from the world of public radio, where he has 10 years’ experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. Last year he produced and hosted “After Jackson: Cleveland’s Next Mayor,” an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.
How did you get your start?
As a young person, I read novels and stories, and tried my hand at writing my own. After high school, I enrolled in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. I thought, a little naively, that journalism would offer a more stable way to write professionally.
In college, I worked summer internships at WCPN, the NPR member station here in Cleveland. That unfolded into a 10-year career telling Northeast Ohio’s stories for Ideastream Public Media. I grew up in Lakewood, but I’ve learned more about Greater Cleveland working as a journalist than I ever knew before. It’s a privilege to be able to write my home town’s true stories each day.
Why did you join Signal Cleveland?
I’m energized by the challenge of building an audience from scratch – and building a relationship of trust and dialogue with that audience. It’s been fun to grow something new in Cleveland’s media ecosystem. The more journalists working in town, the merrier.
This team has been great to work with. We’re just getting started, and already we’re trying to demonstrate our versatility as a news outlet. We can do daily news, in-depth writing, scoopy newsletters and useful explainers. Thanks to the Documenters network, we are paying attention to public meetings large and small.
What’s your favorite story you’ve worked on so far?
Our profile of Mayor Justin Bibb. I’ve covered Bibb since he launched his campaign in early 2021. The profile gave me a chance to assemble two years of reporting in one place, creating what I hope is an honest and fair portrait of our new mayor’s first year.
The premise of Bibb’s campaign was that Cleveland needed urgent change. I tried to explore the tensions and the questions that come along with carrying out that change at City Hall. How much do you bite off at once? How do you balance urgency and patience? What if people think the change is too much – or too little?
What do you want to cover in 2023?
There’s going to be more debate in early 2023 about how to spend Cleveland’s American Rescue Plan Act federal stimulus money. I expect that conversation to get rolling around the time City Council comes back into session the second week of January.
I also want to keep watch on how the city handles investor landlords who have been buying up rental property in town. As just one example, tenant organizers have been agitating for City Hall to crack down on the out-of-state owners of apartment buildings in Shaker Square. I am keen to see where this story leads in the new year.
As I mentioned in our profile of the mayor, the Bibb administration has set a lot of projects in motion, with requests for proposals on lakefront development, police staffing, placing a dollar figure on Burke Lakefront Airport’s economic impact and more. There’s also the plan to turn the West Side Market over to a nonprofit operator. I want to watch how the administration follows through on those efforts in 2023.
And there’s the new administration of Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne to cover. He’s staffing up and has some large challenges awaiting him, from charting the future of the county jail to protecting the well-being of children in county custody.
One last thing: I’d like to hear from you, our readers. Reporting on the outside-City-Hall perspective is just as important as getting the scoop on City Council and the mayor’s office. What should I know? What’s the news in your neighborhood? Get in touch.
Do you have a side hustle or hobby?
My hobbies are fairly run-of-the-mill: reading, playing with our black Labrador Retriever, spending time with friends. I’m not very interesting, but I hope the news I find is.