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Published: 7/23/2006

Blade labor negotiations haven't merited big stories

It is hardly a secret that there are ongoing labor negotiations between The Blade and the Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions, which represents more than 600 unionized workers at The Blade.

Both sides have advertised in an attempt to win public sympathy for their cause. Don Rowney, a history professor at Bowling Green State University, was among a number of readers who asked, as he did, "why there is little or no coverage in The Blade of what must be a major local news item."

"There clearly seems to be an ongoing conflict between the management of The Blade and its unionized staff ... why is the public left to guess at what is going on?" the professor writes.

Fair question. One of the stickiest problems for any news organization is how it covers it when the organization itself is in the news.

Usually, they don't do very well. Last summer, for example, employees of both Detroit newspapers learned from other media that their papers had been sold. However, I am not sure that the ongoing labor dispute at The Blade is a major news item. Imagine that talks were going on at any other area business with 600-plus employees. Would that call for a lot of coverage? I doubt it would - unless the workers actually walked out or were locked out.

In fact, the paper has had at least six short stories about developments between the unions and the management. None of them seems to me to be slanted. (If you are wondering, I am neither union nor management, but an independent contractor who works as ombudsman for a fee. My everyday jobs are teaching for one Michigan university and broadcasting for another.)

But, another reader asked, "how can The Blade cover this when it is involved?"

Ron Royhab, vice president and executive editor of the newspaper, answered.

"Our staff of professional journalists always tries to cover news events fairly and impartially," he said. "I have no reason to believe otherwise concerning coverage of our labor negotiations."

Professor Rowney also asked why the public was kept in the dark as to what was going on. I don't think it has been. Except, that is, to the extent that ongoing contract negotiations are always secret.

The doors are closed, the parties go to work, and eventually, both sides make an announcement when they have reached an agreement. In most cases, including this one, both parties hope that stage is reached soon.

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A woman from Swanton called to complain that The Blade allows Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner to refer to Toledo as an "All-America City."

"Wasn't that some time ago? Isn't Maumee the All-America City now?" she asked. Well, yes, and yes - but Toledo's Mayor didn't do anything wrong either.

Aleks Humeyumptewa, manager of the National Civic League's All-America City program, confirmed that Toledo won the designation not only once, but three times - in 1950, 1983-84, and 1998.

Maumee was one of the cities winning this year. "But there is absolutely nothing wrong with a city continuing to call itself an All-America City," Mr. Humeyumptewa said. "But if they use it on their stationery or logo, they must include the year in which they won the award."

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Two other readers wondered why, after this month's tragic bombings in India, The Blade continues to call that nation's largest city "Bombay." The New York Times, one noted, calls it Mumbai, as do all newspapers in India.

Kurt Franck, The Blade's managing editor, responded that "most of the wire services, including the Associated Press, are still using Bombay."

Much of the western world, he noted, is still not familiar with the name Mumbai. "We may move to that with time," Mr. Franck said, adding that "when the train bombings broke last week, we mentioned in one of the stories that Bombay is sometimes referred to as Mumbai."

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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, 43660, or at my Detroit office: 189 Manoogian Hall, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202; call me, at 1-888-746-8610 or E-Mail 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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