Loading…
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Current Weather
Loading Current Weather....
Published: Sunday, 10/14/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Campaign coverage draws fire from both sides

BY JACK LESSENBERRY
BLADE OMBUDSMAN

The presidential campaign is heating up, and one thing seems to unite those who are strongly partisan on both sides — they aren’t happy with The Blade’s coverage of the election.

Reader Ronald Fisher wants to know, “Are you becoming another right-wing, conservative rag? Seems like the front page is filled almost every day with pictures of [Mitt] Romney. On Tuesday (Oct. 9) you had pictures of both Romney and [Paul] Ryan. And then you ran that stupid book review on the front page.

“That shouldn’t even have been in the newspaper.”

Dave Murray, managing editor of The Blade, says, “We have been very careful to present balanced coverage of both the Obama and Romney campaigns. More often than not, if you see a Romney photo on A1 you’ll also see a similar-sized Obama photo.”

On that particular day, he added, Mr. Romney was there alone because he was giving a major foreign policy speech. Candidates also get more attention when they campaign in the area.

GOP vice presidential nominee Ryan was on the front page as well because he was campaigning at Toledo Express Airport.

As for the “stupid book review,” the day before, The Blade did run a front-page story about a controversial new book, Fool Me Twice, by Aaron Klein and Brenda Elliott) that claims the President has a secret progressive agenda he plans to roll out if re-elected.

Frankly, I was surprised to see the story there — which may in fact be the best argument for putting it on Page 1. If newspapers are going to keep readers, they shouldn‘t always be predictable.

And those reading the actual story learned that the authors have no proof to back up many of their claims and that some of what they allege is wrong. Would your ombudsman have put it on Page 1? Probably not. Do I think doing so was unfair?

Not really, though I think the writer ought to have made some of the book’s flaws clearer early in the story. And noted that “progressive” and “socialist” aren’t the same thing.

At the same time, a number of other readers complained that The Blade has been biased in favor of the Obama Administration -- and has been especially critical of the newspaper’s coverage of the events in Libya surrounding the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, on Sept. 11.

They were angry that The Blade was, at least at first, reporting the administration’s claim that this wasn’t a terrorist attack.

“Anderson Cooper has proof that it was preplanned,” wrote Bonnie Schneider, who writes almost daily to tell me that President Obama is destroying America. Jan Reimer, who thinks The Blade is “an echo chamber for the left wing of the ‘democrat’ party,” says, “I haven’t seen any coverage regarding the administration’s cover-up of what happened in Benghazi? Did I miss something?”

Starting with first things last: Foreign policy crises are often confusing and take a while to be sorted out. The Blade doesn’t have reporters in Libya or the Middle East and is dependent on news service reports and on official announcements.

Your ombudsman once did a lot of foreign reporting, and has been the national/foreign editor of three newspapers. Based on that, I can tell you a lot of caution is advisable in reporting stories like this.

As of now, two things seem clear to me: 1) The administration does seem to have jumped to somewhat faulty conclusions about the nature of the attack, and 2) Both parties are now trying to capitalize on the tragedy for political gain. Some of the Republicans in Congress now loudly criticizing the lack of security at the embassy voted against more funds for embassy security, for example.

All of which means more caution is needed. I haven’t seen any signs that The Blade is “suppressing” the truth here or indeed that anyone yet knows exactly what “the truth” is.

Not even Anderson Cooper.

The controversy swirling about the case in which a University of Toledo Medical Center nurse threw a kidney awaiting transplant into the trash continues. Several readers complained about a Sept. 27 headline, “UTMC review finds system problems.“

As Toledoan Betty Kolasky writes, Dr. Marlon Levy, the surgeon in charge of the review, is soon quoted as saying, “Our review identified no systemic process or team culture which could have indicated the program was at risk.”

That does appear to contradict the headline, and I think The Blade could have crafted a less confusing one. However, common sense indicates that whatever the language the surgeon used, any system in which a nurse can pick up a newly removed kidney and throw it in the trash is a system with big problems.

Mary and Joseph Poe are among several readers who have complained about a technical problem: “ We have noticed several days of missing print on the bottom lines of [some pages of] the newspaper … we find this annoying.”

Joseph H. Zerbey IV, president and general manager of The Blade, agrees. “We are in the process of installing a new publishing system, and it has some ‘bugs’ we are working through,” he said.

“We’ve just made an update that should solve this problem, and we really appreciate our readers’ patience as we work to bring you a better product.”

Anyone who has 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: 563 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. Reminder, however: If you don’t leave me an e-mail address or a phone number, I have no way to get in touch with you.

Jack Lessenberry is a member of the journalism faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former national editor of The Blade.



Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. If a comment violates these standards or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report abuse. To post comments, you must be a Facebook member. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.

Related stories