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Published: Sunday, 4/20/2008

Reporting in sex-abuse case questioned

Reader Twila Page was, to put it mildly, "grossed out" by something in The Blade's coverage of Harry Weatherholt, a Toledo Public Schools security officer who was sentenced last week for sexual battery on a child.

"Can you explain why the Toledo Blade keeps reporting that the 13-year-old female student at Leverette (junior high school) had a "relationship" with the predator, Harry Weatherholt? This is deplorable reporting.

"What type of relationship does a 13-year-old girl have with a 51-year-old man that includes sex?"

I sympathize with her emotion and was myself taken aback the first time I saw the word "relationship" in the first sentence of a story about the case. However, they did in fact have a relationship, although clearly it was a sick one.

According to testimony in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, the molester carefully cultivated or "groomed" the little girl, buying her presents, including a Nintendo game, talking to her on the phone, and writing her passes so she could get out of class to be with him.

Nothing in any of The Blade's stories indicated that there was anything other than perverted about this "relationship," but that is what it was; they knew each other. Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Ruth Ann Franks put what Weatherholt was in perspective when she sentenced him Wednesday: "a monster."

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Speaking of using the right word Toledoan Chuck Riley seems to find some political bias in a short Blade story chronicling the April 8 conviction in Bowling Green of one John F. Schulte for "menacing by stalking."

The headline said, "Former GOP candidate found guilty of stalking." The brief, four-paragraph story notes his conviction, for stalking and harassing an unnamed Lucas County woman. It also notes that he "ran unsuccessfully in the March 4 Republican primary for the Ohio Senate's 2nd District seat."

Mr. Riley told me in an e-mail that the story "certainly convinced me that the reason behind Mr. Schulte's stalking conviction was the result of his political affiliation." He thinks The Blade should change its motto to "One of America's Most Biased Newspapers."

Frankly, his complaint baffled me. There is absolutely no indication that anyone was "behind" this conviction except the man's own bad behavior.

All the newspaper did here was report the results of the court proceedings. True, they identified the man as a former GOP candidate for office in a recent election, which makes sense.

After all, you don't run for office unless you want public attention; he also is not the only Ed Schulte around, and identifying which one he was is a public service -not least to the other Ed Schultes out there.

But that doesn't tarnish the whole Republican Party any more than the conviction of former Toledo Councilman Bob McCloskey on bribery charges tarnishes all Democrats. In fact, you could argue that the Schulte story shows the good sense of local Republican voters; a majority of them rejected him March 4.

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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 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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