Words are powerful things.
Your ombudsman was moved by Blade Staff Writer Federico Martinez’s Nov. 11 story about Mel Long, the former University of Toledo football star who won medals for his service in Vietnam.
The story, which ran on Veterans’ Day, told the story of a man who had survived war and overcome racism. But one line in it bothered fellow Toledo veteran Tom Chetister, who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam about a year before Mr. Long did.
Mr. Chetister didn’t like the sentence: “There may be many Vietnam veterans ‘out there’ — who along with other veterans are being honored today for Veterans Day — but few are as highly decorated and highly regarded as Mr. Long.”
“I felt that was kind of insulting to me and a lot of other veterans,” said Mr. Chetister, who was lucky enough not to see combat. “What does that mean — ‘out there?’ Maybe I didn’t get called on to be shot at, but I think that I and a lot of others would have done their part if [they] had been in that position.”
Your ombudsman is sure the writer or his editor did not mean to put down any veterans. But I’m not sure what “out there” means either and think it wasn’t a great choice of words.
It might have been better to have written: “There may be a lot of Vietnam veterans, but few are as highly decorated as Mr. Long.”
Which doesn’t mean all the rest aren’t deserving of honor.
■ A Perrysburg reader wasn’t happy with our coverage of a Municipal Court race in that Wood County city.
He said, “The reporter … made either an ignorant comment, or a flat-out lie, when he reported that [candidate Thomas] Mackin is a ‘nonpartisan’ in the race for judge. Why is this blatant misstatement allowed to stand?” he said.
Well, it is true that Mr. Mackin, who is on the Perrysburg City Council, is a Democrat. But judicial elections are nonpartisan, and the reporter was correct to say he was running that way.
In any event, he was defeated by Molly Mack, also running as a nonpartisan, who got 59 percent of the vote.
■ Ann Meier was puzzled because two recent stories about Lourdes University and the school’s expansion referred to the school’s new president, David Livingston, as Mr., not Dr.
“Because David Livingston has his PhD, should he not be addressed as Dr. Livingston?” she asked. Frankly, your ombudsman would love the chance to say, “Dr. Livingston, I presume?”
But that wouldn’t be in keeping with The Blade’s style, which is to refer only to medical doctors as Dr. on second reference. This was established years ago, partly to avoid confusing the readers because of the vast multiplication of doctoral degrees in recent years. In fact, there is a real and important distinction between psychiatrists, who are medical doctors, and psychologists, who are not.
No disrespect was intended to David Livingston, and there is nothing inherently unfair about this policy — as long as it is applied consistently. For what it’s worth, The Blade would have called Albert Einstein “Mr. Einstein” if he were still alive today.
■ Mason Kavalick lives in Fort Wayne, Ind., but often visits his grandmother, Victoria Kavalick, in Maumee. Though he is 9 years old, he reads newspapers, and has an opinion about The Blade. “I think the comics should always be in color because it looks nicer than black and white and gives more detail. I would really like it.”
Frankly, your ombudsman would like that too. But unfortunately, that isn’t technically possible, at least at this time. Luann Sharp, the assistant managing editor who oversees the feature sections, said:
“The Sunday comics are printed in a section all their own, so they can be printed in color. The other days of the week, the comics are included in the Peach section, and our presses are not able to print color on all of those pages.”
Well, Mason, we’ll just have to wait. But please keep reading. I was impressed that every single word in your letter was spelled correctly. I wish I could say the same about all my college students.
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.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org