Strong opinions bring strong reactions from readers


One of the biggest misconceptions by readers about The Blade has to do with the difference between news stories and editorials.

Many readers call or write the newspaper claiming they are sure the newspaper is liberal or conservative. When I question them they are almost always upset about an editorial, not a news story written by the paper’s reporting staff.

A newspaper does not support one ideology, does not have one unchanging opinion, but to demand that it does not have an opinion is wrong.

I can say that knowing that in most towns and cities in America the newspaper is the oldest continuously operating business in their communities. That includes The Blade, which has been publishing a newspaper in Toledo since 1835, two years before Toledo became a city.

In that long storied history, The Blade has supported Republican candidates, and Democratic candidates, and a few Independents and Whigs along the way.

The opinion of any newspaper, including The Blade, is expressed on its editorial pages and comes from its publisher and the editors on the editorial board of the paper.

One of the duties of the editorial page editors is to select which letters to the editors to publish in The Blade daily. One of those letters recently resulted in many calls and emails to the newsroom.

On. Aug. 29, the newspaper published a letter to the editor from Diane Hamilton, of Sylvania, who had a rather radical idea for the Catholic Church in dealing with the ongoing sexual abuse scandal involving priests.

“When one becomes a Catholic priest, they should be subject to castration, chemically or surgically, to eliminate their sex drive,” Ms. Hamilton wrote to the newspaper.

Art Sussman, 92, took a break from mowing his lawn last week to tell me how much he objected to the letter from Ms. Hamilton.

“You sure screwed up that one,” Mr. Sussman told me. “I don’t want to give you any grief because I’m sure you’re getting it today.”

Mr. Sussman was one of the nicest Blade critics I’ve listened to lately, telling me how much he liked “his paper” but as a 92-year-old lifelong Catholic and member of Little Flower parish he needed to tell me how much he objected to Ms. Hamilton’s call for castrating priests.

I love readers like Mr. Sussman, and not just because he’s been a loyal Blade reader for decades. In a short telephone conversation he started with “I really love The Blade,” and ends with “You have a good paper.” In between he tells me about his World War II service and his many years of service with Toledo Edison. He’s been retired 33 years.

Mr. Sussman may be surprised, but when I asked Keith Burris, the editor in charge of The Blade’s editorial page, about Ms. Hamilton’s “castration” letter, he agreed with Mr. Sussman and others who objected that the letter was published.

“I think they are right,” Mr. Burris said. “Generally, we err on the side of giving readers their say, but in this case I think it WAS an error, adding more misplaced passion and pain to an already too heated situation.

“I take responsibility for this misjudgement,” said Mr. Burris, whose title is editor, vice president, and editorial director, Block Newspapers. That means he is in charge of the editorial pages of The Blade and its sister paper the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In that role he reports directly to John Robinson Block, the publisher and editor-in-chief of both newspapers.

Another Blade reader, Marcy Johnston of Swanton, writes to object to the wording the newspaper uses in its TODAY’S LOG “Dog killed” column.

Specifically, Ms. Johnston objects to the use of the word “killed.”

“These dogs are not ‘killed,’ ” they are “humanely euthanized,” Ms. Johnston writes.

I’ve gotten many emails and calls about this over the years from people who love dogs and feel terrible that the county dog pound kills dogs, but that’s what it does almost every day.

The Blade began publishing a daily listing of dogs killed at the pound because the newspaper wanted to call attention to the high kill rate under former county dog warden Tom Skeldon, who used to brag about the number of dogs, mainly “pit bull” type dogs, that he killed each year, including whole litters of puppies at a time.

In those bad old days the county pound’s kill rate rose to a high of 77 percent of dogs brought to the shelter. Because of the focus The Blade put on the county’s canine killing ways, the annual kill rate has fallen dramatically, to 28 percent last year.

In a nod to the mercy shown to some dogs killed at the pound, The Blade does note “owner requested euthanasia” in the dog listings when an owner brings a dog to the pound that is sick and needs to be put down. For many, this is a heart-wrenching decision and with the high cost of veterinary services the pound is the lowest-cost option to put a suffering pet out of its misery.

And I’d like to acknowledge Mary Gregory for taking the time to read this column and send an attaboy our way.

“Thank you for your patience with readers. Can’t please everyone, as you know. I’m pleased with Blade reporting. I feel the reporters try hard without injecting their opinion,” Ms. Gregory writes.

Dave Murray is the managing editor of The Blade. If you have concerns or questions about news coverage, send them to him at The Blade, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, Ohio, 43660, or email him at dmurray@theblade.com.