The NEW CLEVELAND CAMPAIGN, a non-profit marketing and public relations organization, was founded in 1978 by Thomas Vail, publisher and editor of the PLAIN DEALER, to improve the city's image, tarnished by the Cleveland jokes made on national television at the time. Local leaders realized that Cleveland could not attract new industry nor retain old ones if it remained the object of ridicule, and a successful fundraising campaign was launched to underwrite the community-wide marketing program. A 29-member Board of Trustees was established with Vail as chairman, and George N. Miller as executive director. In 1980, it was Miller and the New Cleveland Campaign who handled the national media press corps during the Reagan-Carter debates held in the city. Working in cooperation with the GREATER CLEVELAND GROWTH ASSN., CLEVELAND TOMORROW, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau (see CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU OF GREATER CLEVELAND, INC.) to brighten Cleveland's image, the organization avoided civic booster campaigns, instead characterizing the city's attempts to deal with its problems. Their efforts portrayed Cleveland as a steadily improving area with major strengths in professional and business services, medical care, polymers, and measuring and control devices, among others. James Biggar (later head of GATEWAY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORP.) became chairman of the campaign's Board of Directors in 1988.
In 1993, George Miller, who ran the $750,000-a-year marketing effort for 11 years, was succeeded by Sandra Dunn as executive director. Under Dunn's direction, New Cleveland increased its efforts to promote Cleveland as a tourist destination. In the wake of the unexpected termination of an agreement between New Cleveland and the Cleveland Bicentennial Commission to promote Cleveland 200th anniversary, Dunn stepped down as executive director in 1995. She was eventually replaced by Terrance Uhl. In 1996, Thomas M. O'Donnell, then chairman of McDonald & Co. Investments , replaced Biggar as chairman of New Cleveland. In 1998, the organization's name was changed to Cleveland Today; marking a shift from rehabilitating Cleveland's image and to selling, in the Plain Dealer's words, "a changed Cleveland."