SPJ honors Toledo Free Press as Best Weekly Newspaper in Ohio for 4th consecutive yearWritten by Toledo Free Press Staff Writers | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“SPJ is the top authority for maintaining journalistic standards, so to be consistently recognized by them is a tremendous accolade and, we feel, a great honor for the City of Toledo,” said Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller.
Miller also won first place in Ohio for Best Defense of First Amendment for his “Was it something I said?” The Oct. 30 “Lighting the Fuse” column discussed a lawsuit filed against him and TFP by Block Communications, The Blade’s parent company.
The Blade claims Miller’s criticism of its work violates an alleged clause in a non-compete agreement Publisher Tom Pounds reportedly signed eight years ago.
“According to the suit, I am an ‘instrument and agent’ of Tom’s and I am personally liable for ‘damages’ under the agreement Tom signed nearly eight years ago,” Miller wrote. “Let’s call this what it is: an arrogant ‘Hail Mary’ attempt to silence my criticism of The Blade and grossly impair my First Amendment rights, while perpetrating as much damage as possible on my employer and business.”
“It strengthens our resolve in this unasked-for fight to be honored by an organization that understands the importance of the First Amendment,” Miller said. “SPJ contributed its maximum amount to my legal defense fund last year and I hope this recognition stands as a further testament of its staunch defense of free speech.”
Because of its 100,000 circulation in 2011, TFP competed in writing categories against the state’s daily newspapers.
Miller also received first place in Ohio for Best Media Criticism for the column “Monkey Business.” Miller deconstructed a Jan. 8, 2011 Blade story, “WSPD host compares TPS students, monkeys; Wilson denies racism.”
The Blade article on WSPD’s program director and afternoon host Brian Wilson read, “A radio talk show host’s reference to ‘little monkeys’ while talking about students at Toledo Public Schools on Friday generated outrage that the language was insensitive to African-American students, and all students.”
The Blade writer had played an edited version of a radio clip for public officials who called for Wilson to be disciplined. Miller obtained the full version of the clip and wrote that version played for sources by The Blade “did not include the setup, in which Wilson criticized the concept of teaching through repetition without teaching independent thinking, nor did it include this crucial next sentence: ‘Similarly with children, just because you can teach them the answers to what are the capitals of the 50 states in America, that’s a fun exercise but it doesn’t teach them how to think, doesn’t teach them how to be objective, doesn’t teach them to be entrepreneurs and individuals and things along that order.’”
Miller then had the full clip played for the public officials The Blade had spoken to and most retracted their original stances.
“It’s great to see there still is an appreciation for professional, ethical journalism and the quality people who practice it. Michael Miller threw the weight of Toledo Free Press behind the only effort by any media to get the whole story behind the muckraking of The Blade, expose it for the racist fraud it was and publish it in capital letters, forcing The Blade to admit they lied,” Wilson said. “That my own employer had no interest in making any effort to defend the sanctity of the First Amendment, much less one of its own properties and employees, again speaks volumes for the ethics and principles that serve as an actual operating platform for Toledo Free Press.
“Congratulations and thanks to Miller, Tom Pounds and the professional journalists at TFP. You do Toledo and the journalism profession proud.”
SPJ also awarded TFP second place for Children’s Issues Reporting for stories on Feed Lucas County Children, a nonprofit that has prepared more than a million meals for hungry children.
“Staff Writer Patrick Timmis did more than report the series, he lived it, spending time in the field with the affected familes,” Miller said.
Vicki L. Kroll, also the director of internal communications for the University of Toledo, received second place for Best Rock and Roll Feature Writing. Kroll has worked at TFP since its inception and typically writes one feature per week.
“[Writing for TFP] has just been great because I get to talk to musicians from all genres, from Sarah McLachlan to David Sanborn, from Miranda Lambert to Darlene Love,” Kroll said.
Kroll graduated from the University of Toledo in 1988 and has worked at the university since then. She said her dream job would be a full-time rock ’n’ roll feature writer.
“It’s just nice to receive some recognition because it is a lot of work and it’s fun work, but it’s still work on top of my day job,” she said.
Jeff McGinnis, TFP Star’s pop culture editor, received second place for Best Arts Reporting. McGinnis has worked for TFP Star since 2009.
“I love conversation and I love talking to people,” he said. “There isn’t a thing about this job that I don’t love.”
“I have always maintained that Vicki and Jeff are two of Toledo’s best and most insightful writers,” Miller said. “Now, we can say that on a statewide level.”
The Blade received eight awards, including second place for Best Web Site and first place for Tony Cook’s “Scavenging for Hope” in Best Explanatory Journalism.
Tags: Brian Wilson, Feed Lucas County Children, Jeff McGinnis, Michael S. Miller, Society of Professional Journalists, The Blade, Toledo Free Press, Toledo Free Press Star, Tom Pounds, Vicki L. Kroll, WSPD