Byline Strike at Toledo Blade: “We won’t stand for anything less than accurate reporting.”

From a Washington Post story by Tim Elfrink headlined “Toledo Blade writers say managers ‘manipulated’ stories on pro-Trump mob’s attack”:

As Toledo Blade staffers, like journalists everywhere, scrambled Wednesday to document the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob incited by the president, they say a curious edict came down from management: to avoid calling the rioters “Trump supporters” in Web headlines and to change stories and photo captions to say that others might be involved in the violence.

To the paper’s staff, the intent was clear, said Nolan Rosenkrans, a Blade reporter and head of the Toledo News Guild.

“The goal was simply to cast doubt on what everyone saw live on TV, which was Trump supporters attempting to conduct a coup,” Rosenkrans told The Washington Post.

The journalists’ concerns intensified on Thursday when Susan Block, wife of the chairman of Block Communications, a family-owned company that owns the Blade, posted an all-caps Facebook rant in support of the mob and calling Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris a “w—-.”

Late on Thursday, the paper’s writers responded by announcing a byline strike, meaning Blade stories will run without the author’s name. The goal, Rosenkrans said, was aimed at the Toledo community, not the owners, who he says have ignored previous staff complaints.

“Some people were calling for boycotts of the paper, and it’s already a really tough time in journalism,” Rosenkrans said. “We wanted to send the message that we’re on the same side. Do not give up on us.”

Block Communications defended Susan Block’s right to post her views on her Facebook account, telling WTOL in a statement that she “has a First Amendment right to freedom of speech and her opinions,” but noting that her “views do not represent those of Block Communications.”

John Robinson Block, the Blade’s publisher and Susan Block’s brother-in-law, declined to comment on her Facebook post to WTOL, but suggested that he’s unconcerned by the reporter’s byline strike, noting that when he grew up reading the Blade, it did not have bylines. . . .

The case is just the latest conflict between the Block family and journalists at its newspapers, which also include the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, over how to cover President Trump. In Pittsburgh, John Robinson Block oversaw the contentious firing of an anti-Trump cartoonist, and the publication of an editorial defending the president’s offensive language toward immigrants.

At the Blade, Rosenkrans said journalists have grown used to the owner calling top editors to make demands about story coverage.

But the reporters felt a clear line was crossed on Wednesday, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, halting the work of Congress to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. . . .

Rosenkrans said he hopes the byline strike makes it clear that the journalists at the paper won’t stand for anything less than accurate reporting.

“There’s no question about what happened on Wednesday,” he said of the attack on the Capitol. “What we saw was an act of casting doubt on objective fact, which is absurd at a newspaper.”

Tim Elfrink joined The Washington Post in 2018. He’s the editor of Morning Mix

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