Baumhower: Blade lawsuit is déjà vu all over againWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | email@example.com
What has it been … three months since I first started contributing to Toledo Free Press? Now The Blade is suing Toledo Free Press Publisher Tom Pounds and Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller over a noncompete contract Pounds signed while exiting The Blade’s employ nearly eight years ago. This is not the first time that I have been indirectly involved on the defendant side of a Blade lawsuit, nor will it probably be my last.
The first time I was involved, I was the executive producer of the Mark Standriff and Scott Sloan shows for WSPD AM 1370. The Blade in September of 1999 accused Standriff of “stealing” its news and filed a lawsuit to stop us. At that time, Standriff was just getting traction as WSPD’s morning show host and would use the phrase “I read The Blade, so you don’t have to.”
Clearly, John Robinson Block and his wondertwin Allan were not pleased with the daily besmirching, so they sued both the station and parent company Jacor. For the first in a long time, the glory of WSPD had returned. We had every newsmaker on, from the governor to then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. WSPD was once again a stopping place for real discussion about things happening around Toledo and Ohio. That, of course, was the real reason The Blade sued WSPD — to stop its momentum. There can only be one true news entity in Toledo and in the Blocks’ minds it will always be The Blade.
WSPD General Manager Andy Stuart called Standriff and me into his office one morning immediately following the show.
“Good news — we have come to an agreement with The Blade and I need your signature,” he said, speaking directly to Standriff. Stuart was trying to convince Standriff and me that it was a good deal and The Blade’s lawyer, Fritz Byers, had assured him that a small article about the settlement would be buried in the paper. As Standriff and I read the “agreement,” I immediately objected.
“Andy, this agreement states that we [WSPD] will no longer ‘steal’ The Blade’s news?” I asked.
The agreement also stated that Standriff could no longer use his “I read The Blade so you don’t have to” catchphrase without further explanation and that anything we used and shared from the The Blade had to be fully credited to the The Blade, including the full headline of the article, the author and the section in which it was published.
This was one of the most ridiculous things I have ever witnessed in radio. Staurt was telling Standriff he had to sign it because it was going to go away, it would be buried in the paper and stop costing us legal fees, etc. I demanded that Standriff refuse and called him some not-so-flattering names in the procress. But Standriff is an incredibly nice, compassionate and trusting man, so he relented and trusted Stuart.
The next morning, the huge headline on the front page of The Blade read, “WSPD agrees to stop stealing the news,” and that basically was the end of the show. Standriff stayed in Toledo for a couple more years but was always handicapped on what he could and could not say. Standriff later moved his family to California where he now works as the communications person for the state’s Republican party.
In its newest legal action, it appears The Blade is seeking damages from a noncompete exit package that Pounds signed nearly eight years ago.
The more humorous portion is that the suit names Miller as well. Why is that funny? How can an employee-exit agreement by Pounds and The Blade involve any other party except Pounds and The Blade? This is where the answer to The Blade’s legal motives lies. This litigious action is about how the The Blade hates competition and especially competition that makes light of the Blocks.
This is my unsolicited advice to Pounds and Miller:
- Do not settle: Toledo has long been starved of an alternative print newspaper with credibility and great intentions for the city.
- Do not be bullied: This is where The Blade often wins these cases, by drowning you in legal fees. Deep pockets create bigger bullies.
- Don’t stop: Miller must be doing something right if he was named in this lawsuit. Keep the columns and cartoons coming.
Toledoans deserve a printed news source that will champion the city’s efforts to grow and evolve. For way too long, The Blade’s supposed power and reach has kept us from achieving any long-term growth without its written permission. And because of that power, Toledo is in the shape it is.
As Chuck D of Public Enemy said, “Fight the power!”
Jeremy Baumhower is a self-proclaimed media expert who writes and produces for morning radio shows across the country. Please follow him on twitter @jeremytheproduc.