Journalism: November 2011 Archives

Maggie Thurber, a conservative blogger in Toledo, Ohio, calls attention to a seemingly petty and spiteful dispute involving the locally-owned daily paper (Toledo Blade), a successful free weekly paper (Toledo Free Press), a TV station, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In a nutshell, the TV station wouldn't allow the editor of the weekly on air to promote a benefit CD for the Make-A-Wish Foundation because he works for a "direct competitor" to the TV station's "valued partner," the daily paper. As Toledo-based BizzyBlog notes:

Here's the good news. The high and mighty Toledo Blade considers a free publication which it surely once viewed with utter contempt and ridicule as a serious competitor.

The daily paper, meanwhile, is suing the weekly because the publisher of the weekly, who once worked for the daily, signed a separation agreement upon leaving the daily, in which he promised not to disparage the daily. The daily claims that the weekly's editor, who has written critically about the daily and who commissioned an editorial cartoon depicting the daily's owners casting a shadow over the city, is a mere proxy for the publisher, who is using the editor to violate indirectly his non-disparagement agreement. The weekly's editor denies any prompting or control by the publisher as to the content he puts in the paper.

Confused? Hang in there. It's an interesting story, and Michael Miller, Toledo Free Press Editor-in-Chief, tells the story in a compelling way. Elements of the story may ring a bell.

Toledo Free Press has been named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Best Weekly Newspaper for three consecutive years and has garnered scores of industry awards for its writing and design (including my three consecutive SPJ awards in the Best Media Criticism category, for three deconstructions of the plaintiffs' work). To suggest any of that has been accomplished while I was being used as a pawn on a chessboard is to malign my abilities and achievements, a few of which clearly agitate the plaintiffs.

I am Tom's [the weekly publisher's] partner, not his puppet, and there is not one person who has worked for Toledo Free Press who could honestly say otherwise. My guess is that is one of the primary sticking points for the plaintiff; while so many community and business leaders have willingly and by choice allowed themselves to be controlled like marionettes, Tom and I have refused to allow Toledo Free Press to be cowed by the plaintiffs' threats, backroom arrangements and clear disparagement tactics.

Anyone who doubts this is the plaintiffs' attempt to silence my criticism should look at paragraph 31 of their lawsuit.

"On or about August 21, 2011, Pounds ... permitted Toledo Free Press to publish a cartoon that depicted a characterization of [Blade owners] John R. Block and Allan Block together with The Blade as casting an eclipsing shadow on jobs, tax revenue, investment and development in Toledo, Ohio."

The plaintiffs' suit describes the cartoon as disparaging and harmful....

The publication of the cartoon fairly criticized The Blade's own coverage and its owners' published opinions. As public figures at a public entity, the plaintiffs may be fairly criticized. The plaintiffs' lawsuit does not deny the accuracy of the cartoon, it just claims that it violates a nearly 8-year-old agreement that was never agreed to by myself or Lee, the cartoon's creators.

The attempt to silence this criticism should anger anyone who gives a damn about personal free speech and the rights of the press. While The Blade is quick to defend its First Amendment rights, it is telling that it does not extend that defense to others when it is the focus of criticism....

Toledo Free Press is a small company. A protracted legal fight endangers its future. But we will fight. The larger issue of free speech is more important than our business or financial concerns.

I wish the Free Press well, and I'm impressed by their growth and success: 100,000 circulation with home delivery. Pretty good for just six years in operation.

MORE: I'm informed that satirist P. J. O'Rourke hails from Toledo, which may explain any similarities (purely coincidental, of course) between the Toledo Blade and the Dacron Republican-Democrat, the subject of the brilliant 1978 National Lampoon Sunday Newspaper Parody, written by O'Rourke and John Hughes.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Journalism category from November 2011.

Journalism: October 2011 is the previous archive.

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