Brian Wilson’s warWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn owns the chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when John Wilkes Booth fired a single Derringer bullet into his skull. The chair is a quilted red fabric with an ornate wooden frame. The top of the chair, where the head would rest, is badly and darkly stained.
The first time I saw that stain on the chair, I shuddered with a chill I have only experienced in front of two other historical artifacts. One was a Holocaust Museum boxcar used to transport Jewish victims to Auschwitz; the inside of that train car was colder than any cold I can describe from this side of the grave. The other icy moment was seeing a pair of perfectly preserved children’s shoes at a Memphis exhibit of Titanic artifacts. Neither moment matched the gloomy dread I felt while looking at the blood-stained back of the chair in which Lincoln had sat near his wife, joking and watching a comedy.
“Those stains aren’t blood,” the tour guide said, reading my mind and interrupting my thoughts. “those are stains from hair pomade.”
Things are not always what they seem, no matter how emotionally intense and visceral one’s reaction is to the stimuli.
While making one of my frequent scans of some local blogs and news sites Aug. 14, I read this comment on SwampBubbles, in reaction to a Blade story on WSPD host Brian Wilson’s Wood County home reportedly being foreclosed: “The Toledo Blade needs to follow up on some of this, God knows the Toledo Free Press will probably not even cover this story.”
The post was from a contributor who calls himself “Wolfman.” I know who Wolfman is, because he has written to me under his real name. I do not know if his real name is common knowledge on blog sites, so I will not breach etiquette and out him here.
Wolfman’s comment is presumably based on a belief that the hot-and-cold relationship between WSPD and Toledo Free Press will inspire one to protect the other, but that belief ignores each organization’s history of commenting on and occasionally criticizing the other’s stances on case-by-case issues.
Wolfman often spars on SwampBubbles with WSPD morning host Fred LeFebvre and, as is his right, is unrelentingly critical of Toledo Free Press, WSPD and most local media; he has stated his rather paranoid belief that “The extreme right has control or indirect control of most of Toledo media.”
I am not sure how any media outlet that employs Lisa Renee Ward and Don Burnard could be thought of as controlled by the extreme right; hell, I am not sure how any media outlet that shares a ZIP code with Burnard could be thought of that way. But that is Wolfman’s opinion and nothing I can say will dissuade him.
One of Wolfman’s more amusing habits is his on-the-one-hand dismissal of the stories we choose to cover and his on-the-other-hand complaints about the stories we do not choose to cover. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t, as far as Wolfman is concerned.
When The Blade reported in late May that WSPD program director, news director and afternoon host Brian Wilson was broadcasting many of his shows from Virginia, Wolfman howled with delight. He called Wilson a “carpetbagger” and a liar. When The Blade reported Aug. 14 that Wilson’s home was being foreclosed, the schadenfreude spewed from Wolfman with the predictability of Old Faithful: “Why would a supposed ‘wealthy man’ foreclose on his own property? Why would a former ‘Big Market’ talk show host come to Toledo in the first place?” Wolfman wrote, following that with his “God knows the Toledo Free Press will probably not even cover this story” comment.
So, will we cover this story? Is it a story? The Blade thought so; it ran it on Page 1, so it must be super important, right?
Almost anyone with skin in the game of Toledo development will nod in agreement when the conversation turns to The Blade’s bullying tactics being a detriment to the city’s progression, even as its circulation and relevance fades. But there aren’t that many public critics, are there? You can count the number of outspoken Blade critics on one hand and you won’t need your thumb. Wilson is consistently one of the loudest and most enthusiastic of those critics. That, in Blade logic, makes him a target and fair game for humiliation; he is held to a different standard of coverage, and not just because he is inarguably a public figure.
That is not to defend Wilson or portray him as a victim. I can tell you from experience that when you dare to break the silence of the lambs and hold The Blade accountable for its crimes against journalism, you accept that you have bought yourself a series of concentric red and white circles on your life, reputation and career.
If Wilson’s managerial equivalent at Blade partner WTOL, Bob Chirdon, foreclosed on a house, would The Blade put it on Page 1? Last month, a fairly high-ranking Blade employee’s home was listed in court records as going into foreclosure; was that on Page 1? Or on any Blade page?
Again, this is not a defense of Wilson, whose comments when Keith Sadler was locking himself in his home to protest a foreclosure certainly opens Wilson to accusations of not practicing what he preaches. The point is that, like the stains on Lincoln’s chair at the Henry Ford Museum, the Blade story (and its Page 1 placement) are not what they seem on the surface, no matter how emotionally intense and visceral one’s reaction is to the stimuli.
Wilson and The Blade are at war, and anything they say about each other should be held to a higher standard of circumspection, with the distinction that Wilson wields opinion while The Blade pretends it is offering news. And yes, my opinions on Wilson and The Blade are subject to the same wariness, as is anything The Blade writes about the people featured on this page.
When a commenter like Wolfman hacks at a topic with zero awareness of his own ideological blind spots and rhetorical decrepitude, that level of circumspection should rise even higher, even as the depth of the stain on conversational civility sinks ever lower.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com.