Stockholm in the rearview mirrorWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not accurate or fair to use the geographical terms “Toledo” and “Northwest Ohio” as if they are interchangeable, but the two are inextricably linked. You may be riding high in Perrysburg or Rossford, but you must understand the impact Toledo has on your economy and culture.
When I mention negativity in Toledo, I refer to the city and the regions tied to its prosperity, or lack thereof.
Why do so many Toledoans dislike, badmouth and feel crummy about Toledo? No one of intelligence would claim ours is a perfect community, but it’s not crime-ridden like Detroit or polluted like Long Beach. For raising a family and enjoying a relatively peaceful and high quality of life, our region offers an abundance of positives. Yet the area cultivates a poor sense of self-esteem and a reputation as a “hotbed of mediocrity.”
One factor is Stockholm syndrome. Toledoans have been held hostage by a negative media and negative politicians for so many years, we identify and sympathize with our captives. The Blade is a newspaper far better and vital than its critics would admit, but absolutely no one points to its leaders, Allan Block (who lives in New York) and John Robinson Block (who lives in Pittsburgh, as do the other two Block heirs), and says, “Now, there are two men who love Toledo!”
Nearly 10 years ago, I interviewed J.R. Block for a now-defunct business publication, and he shared with me his opinion that Toledoans are “bottom of the barrel” folk who “couldn’t survive anywhere else.” It stunned me then, and it stuns me now, that a man with so much power and influence would be so disdainful about the city that supports his legacy. It’s a bad combination, and although too many people are afraid to name the elephant that’s stinking up the room, most developers and investors will tell you that The Blade’s top leaders are a detriment to growth and the city’s image.
But like a hostage held at gunpoint, Toledoans have come to identify with this thinking, and have largely stopped arguing. That’s Stockholm syndrome.
I lived in Toledo for the first 30 years of my life, then spent the better part of a decade exploring Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, San Jose, Miami, Fla. and Ann Arbor. Each of those bigger cities had big newspapers, and big problems, but they shared a sense of community and pride. There is no feeling that political machinations and agendas are being set in editorial offices to the detriment of those communities.
Pride cannot be manufactured with signs and banners. Pride comes from inside, from a sense that good people are doing good things to make neighborhoods feel like home.
Many Toledo politicians and people of influence contribute to this sense of feeling second rate. Corrupt politicians, squabbling politicians and self-aggrandizing politicians are also holding guns to the heads of our citizens. A Team? B team? Really? Fighting factions on the school board? Really?
Like a hostage who depends on a captor for survival, too many Toledoans shrug, walk away and stay silent.
I often hear it stated that a lot of good, smart people are afraid to step up and take leadership roles in Toledo because they know the political system and the media are ready with sharpened knives.
But if not you, who?
And if not now, when?
Toledo Free Press strives to balance the necessary watchdog and critical roles a newspaper plays with an emphasis on the positive developments that move our region forward.
We do not claim to be the paper of record, but then again, how many people still play records in this digital age?
Many of you are seeing us for the first time, and I hope a thoughtful tour of these pages during the coming weeks and months and years will reveal hard truths tempered by good news and pride in our community. We’ve been a relatively small voice for the past two years, but we’ve been a consistent voice, and this new audience gives us a chance to further melt the glacier of mopey negativity that chills our friends and neighbors.
One drop at a time, that glacier will melt, if enough of us take the time to break free of the Stockholm syndrome that grips our community.
After we announced our expansion to 150,000 copies, a high-ranking manager at The Blade reportedly told a mutual advertiser that we would regret “Waking a sleeping giant,” which is the perfect metaphor for how the daily newspaper sees itself: towering over the city like an ogre bent on smashing and destroying.
So, have we woken a sleeping giant?
Well, good morning, Goliath.
Nice day to toss a few stones around, don’t you think?