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Published: 7/2/2006

Piece on stay-at-home dads didn't relate the whole story

The message was dripping with sarcasm.

"Congratulations," it began. "The Toledo Blade has successfully forgotten to do its background research on a story that it published on Father's Day concerning stay-at-home dads."

The woman writing told me she had been in a relationship with Ben Harley, one of these fathers, and had a daughter by him. And, it seemed, the model stay-at-home dad owed her a lot of money in unpaid child support.

Oops.

The reporter called the man, who admitted that yes, he was the father, and yes, he was behind on his child support, but claimed he was catching up.

The mother of his previous daughter added, "I appreciate gender role reversal as much as the next person, but please, next time you glorify someone do a background check."

That is, however, easier said than done. For lots of reasons, there are issues of privacy and confidentiality involved when it comes to matters like child-support payments.

The reporter said he did some checks on the fathers involved in the story; and if (God forbid) there were an outstanding warrant out for murder for one of these guys, that would probably have turned up immediately.

The era of Ward and June Cleaver ended a long time ago, and most people do not stay in the same marriage all their lives. Nor do all kids grow up in a nuclear family.

There was nothing wrong or incorrect in what we wrote about this particular father, and his present wife said he was a wonderful husband and an excellent dad. But that wasn't the whole story. My guess is that had we known, he wouldn't have been included in the stay-at-home Father's Day roundup at all.

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Conspiracy theories abound, and I heard from a lot of conservatives in late June who accused The Blade of suppressing a story that WMDs - weapons of mass destruction - had been discovered in Iraq after all.

"You liberals will stop at nothing to suppress the truth," said one man, who accused the newspaper of being "merely a mouthpiece for the United Nations' agenda." (I have never been able to figure out what the U.N. agenda might be.)

The story in fact was this: U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa) and U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R., Mich.) did indeed hold a press conference June 21 to announce that in fact the famous weapons had been discovered at last.

Why wasn't that front-page news? Well, if those claims were true, they probably should have been the headline story in every newspaper in the country the next day. Trouble is, what the congressmen said wasn't accurate.

That's the conclusion, not of some liberal bloggers, but of the Pentagon and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Seems what had been discovered were old, degraded chemical weapons shells left over from the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"These are not the WMDs for which the United States went to war," Mr. Rumsfeld's spokesman said.

What's more, some of them had been found three years ago. The fact is that Mr. Santorum is in an extremely tough re-election battle and is running far behind in the polls. Mr. Hoekstra is an ambitious congressman who is seen as having his eye on higher office.

Granted, there is a concern that even degraded weapons might be used in some form by the bad guys.

Newspapers are rightly leery of being hijacked by politicians for their own purposes.

Regardless of what the United Nations agenda may be.

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Anyone with a concern about fairness or accuracy in The Blade is invited to write me, c/o The Blade, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660, or at my Detroit office, 189 Manoogian Hall, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202; call me, at 1-888-746-8610, or email me at OMBLADE@aol.com.

I cannot promise to address every question in the newspaper, but I do promise that everyone who contacts me with a serious question will get a personal reply.



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