Anyone who works at a daily newspaper, especially if it’s the only daily in a city, knows how much influence and impact stories can have — for good or bad.
I don’t just mean the editorials, which are the opinion of the publisher and the editorial board of a newspaper, but the stories about the life of a city, such as one about why so many empty big-box stores are littering Toledo.
Dave Murray Column Sig Inside the News
The Blade did such a story last Sunday on the cover of Business & Real Estate, interviewing area real estate brokers about the difficulty of filling closed retail stores in Toledo, such as the vacant Food Town and Andersons stores. It was a good story and explained how changing shopping patterns have negatively affected local retail businesses.
The story also hurt one of the little guys in town, Norm Eisen, better known as Stormin’ Norman, who for the past nine years has operated what he calls “the largest flea-market under roof in northwest Ohio” in one of the closed big-box stores mentioned in our business story — the former Food Town store at 5860 Lewis Avenue, just north of Alexis Road.
“We’ve had several customers call asking if we’re going out of business, if we’re still in business,” Mr. Eisen told me last week. “Just the opposite. Second-hand stores are growing in Toledo. There’s one down the street on Lewis, and a couple on Sylvania Avenue.”
Mr. Eisen points out that his business is doing so well that he could use a place that’s even bigger. “We’re not looking for any financial help from the city, just some place that’s affordable.”
When Mr. Eisen called the newspaper about our story and the calls he was receiving, we ran a clarification on Page A2 Tuesday telling readers his flea market occupies a space in the former Food Town store. Mr. Eisen said he’d rather have a story about his business on the Sunday Business cover, but I told him Page A2 is where The Blade runs corrections and clarifications.
Many of the calls I get from readers are questions about why The Blade does what it does. The answer many times is “tradition.” That drives people, including me, a bit crazy.
The Blade, as most newspapers, has a style book. It’s not actually a book any longer, and it’s not about style as in fashion. It is a digital set of rules and guidelines that all Blade reporters and editors are expected to know well. It governs everything from how we report on crime victims — we don’t print their exact addresses — to where we publish corrections and clarifications — on Page A2, bottom right.
The style book of The Blade or any newspaper makes sure the journalists working there are all working from a common set of standards so there is consistency in how stories are written.
I couldn’t rely on The Blade style book to answer the questions of Charles Ellis, a Blade reader who called the newsroom last week, complaining about our coverage of President Trump.
“I’ve been having a problem with The Blade,” Mr. Ellis began when I called him back. “I’ve always heard that you guys are slanted left, but it’s gotten so much worse lately and it’s blatantly obvious.”
Mr. Ellis’ comment surprised me because the calls I’ve gotten from many other readers recently are that The Blade has become “a pro-Trump rag” that won’t call out the President about his policies or his tweets that they think are ruining the nation.
Mr. Ellis’ beef with The Blade was about the front page on Monday, Aug. 6. The story at the top right-hand corner of the paper, what we in the newsroom usually call “the play story,” was headlined “Trump’s new health plans raise concern,” and the photo to the left of the story of a California firefighter walking around a swimming pool outside a home that had been saved from raging wildfires.
We picked the photo for the top of Page One because of how striking it looked, with red fire-retardant chemicals splashed across the pool, and because of how newsworthy the California wildfires have been this summer, with thousands of homes burned and many people killed.
Mr. Ellis took the placement of the Trump health plan story and the California wildfire photo completely different. “It makes it look like the pool is full of blood. I asked three people if they thought The Blade was trying to link the story about President Trump to the pool full of blood and they all agreed with me that it did.”
I tried to explain to Mr. Ellis that by placing the photo in a box and publishing a caption with it explaining that the photo was about fighting California wildfires meant that it had nothing to do with the story about President Trump’s health plan, but he wasn’t buying it.
“We’re never going to agree,” he said.
Even though he is sure that I and other editors at The Blade are “against Trump,” I told him what I tell all readers who take the time to call the newspaper — “I appreciate that you read The Blade.”
I say that because I mean it. Without readers there is no reason to publish a newspaper, even readers who are sure we’re for or against the current president.
Dave Murray is the managing editor of The Blade. If you have concerns or questions about news coverage, send them to him at The Blade, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, Ohio, 43660, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.