Today, The Blade launches OurTownPerrysburg.com, a Web site devoted to covering the news of Perrysburg and Perrysburg Township. The site will focus on community news and high school sports, and allow readers to upload their own photos and news from their families — happenings that would never make it into the daily newspaper.
As The Blade finds new methods to deliver news to readers it will increasingly do so on digital platforms like the Our Town Web sites in Sylvania and now in Perrysburg, which we hope will spread to other suburban communities east and north of Toledo in the months ahead.
But the launch of OurTownPerrysburg.com takes us back to our first efforts at reporting neighborhood news.
It was on April 26, 1977, that the Weekly Blade debuted, a four-page broadsheet covering the news primarily in Perrysburg and Maumee — plus as many briefs as its first reporter, Donna Cottier, could type.
RELATED ARTICLE: Welcome to OurTownPerrysburg
Briefs are the lifeblood of a neighborhood section, full of the tidbits of community life that are too small to make it in the main newspaper. That first edition of the Weekly Blade had 48 of them, ranging from “Perrysburg Council OK’s Gas Station Site” to “Rummage Sales Slated By 2 Maumee Churches.”
And that first edition, and every one to follow, also included the popular Around the Suburbs column that Mrs. Cottier always said wrote.
That’s not exactly true. She would say the column wrote itself, and she wasn’t lying. The 1970s version of uploading a photo or story to a Web site was Around the Suburbs and I was there to witness it.
My second reporting assignment at The Blade, after a stint as a night obit writer, was to head to the Maumee office of the Weekly Blade in 1980. I was to report on the new Weekly East covering Rossford and Oregon and share an office with Mrs. Cottier. I had no idea what I was doing and I told Mrs. Cottier that on my first day. She told me not to worry.
“Just watch me,” she said. “And forget everything the downtown editors told you. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
So I watched, and was amazed, and learned how to be a small-town reporter on a big-town newspaper.
Every morning she was banging away on her typewriter when I got to the office, usually with the Maumee police chief, the mayor, or one of the “busybodies” from Perrysburg or Waterville sitting next to her dishing the latest news, and usually on their second cup of “free Blade coffee.”
All the news that was fit to print, or not, made it into her column, and everybody read it.
The first column of the first 1977 edition reported on then-Maumee Service Director Joe Cory checking on potholes by riding around town on a bicycle with his son Fritz “riding on a bicycle seat behind his dad and he escaped not one bump.” And there was the report of blood found outside Perrysburg’s Way Library. Turns out the librarian’s husband, Ralph Barnes, had been painting the library’s fence “and had accidentally spilled a little blood – ooopps – we mean redwood stain.”
But Mrs. Cottier’s column entries weren’t always so newsworthy. Take the case of the Maumee’s butcher, Rex Finch: “Walk into the market some day and the see the sausage tray. On the end fashioned in remarkably lifelike style is the face of a pig – snout and all.”
Joe O’Conor, The Blade’s managing editor when the Weekly Blade began, says said last week in a telephone interview from his Florida home that the weekly was started to increase circulation. “There were a lot of small-town papers popping up, and we wanted to give people the small news you couldn’t get in the big Blade,” he said.
OurTownPerrysburg.com and OurTownSylvania.com, and all The Blade’s Our Town sites to come, are being started for the same reason— to get community news to our readers in the way they want to read it. More people than ever read The Blade online, and more each month on their cell phones and digital tablets. The Blade circulates around 100,000 papers daily and 130,000 on Sundays, but in March The Blade surpassed 10 million page views on all its Web sites — a record. Of those, there were 970,000 page views from cell phones and 134,000 from iPads, a trend that is forecast to grow.
But no matter how many fancy devices are out there, The Blade still starts by putting reporters in your communities to report the news. I just hope they are half as productive as Donna Cottier with her typewriter, coffee pot, and ear for all the news that’s fit to print, or not.
Dave Murray is managing editor of The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org