May 24, 2006

Blade Writer George Tanber Admits Pulitzer Letter

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(Toledo, OH) Editor and Publisher broke a story this afternoon about longtime Toledo Blade reporter George Tanber, who apparently admitted writing the infamous eight-page letter to the Pulitzer committee detailing the reasons why the Blade series on Coingate was "tainted."

The Blade reporter told E&P that he was suspended without pay today after informing editors of his involvement in the letter.

Tanber, who provided a copy of his two-page statement to E&P, said that he "did not sign the letter because I wanted the focus to be on the message, not on me. But I did provide an e-mail address to the Pulitzer board to contact me for further information or questions. No one did."

Tanber said that his decision to come forward was based on his desire to prevent innocent employees from being falsely accused.

"I have chosen to come forward because I don't want this investigation to continue at the expense of others," he said. "Already, some colleagues and others have been unfairly blamed and targeted. The responsibility is mine alone."

The Coingate series exposed corruption in Toledo and Ohio state politics involving coin dealer and political fund raiser Tom Noe. Noe is currently on trial for crimes related to millions of dollars in Bureau of Worker's Compensation funds that are missing, as well as federal campaign finance violations.

The state of Ohio alleges that many thousands of dollars of BWC monies wound up in campaign accounts of dozens of elected officials, including the 2004 campaign of President Bush and that of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In a probe that was related to Coingate outgoing Ohio Governor Bob Taft was convicted of misdemeanor ethics charges in 2005.

The Pulitzer letter involved charges that a former Toledo Blade writer, Fritz Wenzl, knew about the Coingate story and deliberately sat on the explosive material out of loyalty to the Noes. Given the close outcome of the 2004 election, some pundits have speculated that Ohio - and thus the 2004 presidential election - might have gone to John Kerry had the story broken earlier.

Toledo Blade editor Ron Royhab has publicly denied that the paper ever knew about details of the Coingate scandal prior to 2005, and credits its Columbus bureau with initially breaking the story.

For those who wish to understand the chronology of the complicated Wenzl-Coingate link, I suggest the excellent Salon.com article by Bill Frogameni.

Developing...

71 comments:

Anonymous said...

HOLY S**T!!!

Anonymous said...

Your kidding me, Mike - Fritz "The Weasel" Wenzl acting improperly? Say it ain't so!

Kate said...

This is huge

dusty said...

when I started my poli blog, this was one of the first debacles I posted about last year, the infamous "Coingate".

I hate when reporters are crooked..we all get fucked..I knew nothing of the reporters background you mention..I am in Cali.

pardon the f-bomb :p

historymike said...

Yes, a big story, Kate.

historymike said...

This is an ugly story, Dusty. It must be mentioned that no clear "smoking gun" ties Wenzl to the Noes, but there are a lot of sources on and off the record who say he did.

He was on the payroll of the GOP and the Blade at the same time (April-May 2005), but this is at worst just a breach of journalistic ethics.

It appears the Blade did not know of Wenzl's actions at the time he supposedly buried the story, if the statements of his accusers are accurate.

No one, however, should take away from the excellent work of Mike Wilkinson, James Drew, and the rest of the Coingate series writers.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely believe that Wenzel knew about the Noe stuff and sat on it. But wouldn't the Blade have been better off exposing Wenzel themselves as part of the "story" rather than risk having someone else police them?

Anonymous said...

Mike, you refer your readers to Frogameni -- but could it be he's involved somehow with Tanber's activities in this escapade? I notice he wrote for Salon, and in this statement from the Blade tonight, it appears Tanber was also supplying info to them.

From an update posted at Editor and Publisher Wednesday night:

"In its investigation, The Blade has learned that since last summer George Tanber fed reporters at Editor & Publisher and Salon.com with information, some that was untrue, about The Blade and some of its staff members. He also assisted them in reporting stories that appeared on their Web sites. He communicated with Editor & Publisher using his Blade laptop....

(snip)

We interviewed staff members and non-staff members, including members of the community who George Tanber contacted and then represented himself as a Blade reporter doing a story about our Coingate coverage, when in fact he had no such assignment.

"Yesterday’s letter from George Tanber contains inaccuracies, as did the anonymous letter he sent to Pulitzer."

(End of statement)

I saw a post on toledotalk.com by Frogameni in which he used a rather telling phrase in reference to the Blade's coverage of Coingate -- a phrase that also appeared in the anonymous letter (which I've seen) to the Pulitzer people (his post on toledotalk appeared before the Pulitzer letter was reported in the media).

I'm wondering if this thing is going to get uncomfortably close to him. As a journalist, perhaps you could ask him what his relationship is with Tanber, and whether he and Tanber collaborated on the Salon articles. (My guess would be that the Blade already knows the answer to those questions, thanks to that laptop.)

historymike said...

Tough call, anonymous.

I can't speculate on Bill's sources. I know him fairly well, and we have collaborated on a few things in the past, but he was on his own for Salon.com.

He did not disclose his sources to me, although there were two GOP sources that were sort of common knowledge in town.

I worked on this story last summer, although my coverage never saw the light of day due to a lack of on-the-record sources. It's awfully tough to sell such a story with no one willing to go on the record.

I can say that many people in the Blade knew this story (as did many of the politicians and media personnel in the city).

I have never spoken with Tanber about this topic.

An abbreviated version of this story made its way into a Toledo City Paper column by Paula Ross in - I think - September 2005, as well as a piece in E&P about Wenzl's alleged inaction on the story.

I can say that Frogameni probably had at least 4-5 Blade personnel to pick from who could have furnished him info.

This story had been making the rounds in Toledo media circles from the day that Coingate hit, and one source said that it had been lurking even earlier than that.

I have not read Tanber's letter, nor the "infamous" Pulitzer letter, so I can't begin to comment on similarities betwen those and any other writing.

I reached a point last summer after spending about 100 hours on this that I would have been happy to never hear another word about this story again.

Ultimately it is up to readers as to who they want to believe, since most of the evidence is circumstantial.

The people who have claimed direct knowledge, to this point, refuse to go public.

Anonymous said...

My comments weren't related to the veracity of the Fritz story. Rather, I was commenting on the Pulitzer letter and whether it's possible that Frogameni had a hand in it. I'm not saying he did; just wondering if he did. If he did, I would think that would affect his future as a journalist. Unless, of course, news organizations think that letter was a good thing.

I'm fully aware of the stories that were out there on the grapevine for a long time. But with mention of Tanber's laptop and Salon, it got me to wondering if there was more than one person involved ... then I wondered if there might be an electronic trail connecting people ... and then I recalled Frogameni's Salon pieces. THEN I remembered the matching phrase in that toledotalk post and the letter.

I wouldn't expect Frogameni to give up his sources, but I would like to see/hear him confirm that his work on Coingate didn't drift into the darker world of messing with the Pulitzer Prize -- a most unseemly undertaking, regardless of what The Blade did or didn't know, and what The Blade did or didn't do.

historymike said...

That does not sound like Frogameni, anonymous.

Bill is a bulldog for a story, but to my knowledge he harbors no ill will toward the Blade.

We talked on the phone a few weeks ago when the news broke about the letter and the investigation, and we engaged in some speculation about the author (neither of us guessed correctly).

As far as phrasing - my guess is that the letter writer may have been perusing some of the published stories, including Bill's, and picked up the phrase.

I also got an email last night suggesting that Tanber might not have even written the letter, and that he might be taking the fall for someone else.

Who knows...

Michael said...

The way the "Coingate" story slowly developed, my initial thought was the Blade got darn awful lucky in unraveling Noe's involvement and scams.

WSPD had Noe on the air often in the early goings of the story. At first, the entire story did look like the story was another political attack from the Blade.

But, more and more, the Blade began to look better and better as Noe looked more and more guilty.

So, looks like my initial guess that it "got lucky" was a bit off.

While the Blade gets a lot of deserved and undeserved criticism, the reporters there, by and large, do a great job.
Mike

historymike said...

I agree that the story had some fascinating elements of investigative journalism, Mike.

I question the Blade's claim that it ferreted out the Coingate story all by itself in Columbus, as I have talked with knowledgeable sources who claim that they were pointed in the right direction by a source pissed off at Noe.

This source allegedly had some good inside information that gave the Blade a huge head start.

Of course, since that source would not go on the record, I have to add the disclaimer that my comments on the origin on the story are nothing more than informed speculation.

That being said, almost every story a journalist writes has some inspiration, whether in the form of a tip, a good idea, or following in someone else's footsteps.

-Sepp said...

I heard that Bernie ran her mouth about a friend's extramarital affair to the guys wife and HE was the source.
Tanber should get credit for comming forward since he'll probably be unemployed soon and since he took the heat off of a "supposed" list of suspects who were being singled out on Superior st.

Anonymous said...

I recently saw Mike Wilkinson speak, and he demonstrated how a lot of the basic Noe information could be easily drawn from public websites. I would be the first to agree that The Blade has an agenda, but I suspect that the Coingate reporting team got a good tip and it turned out to be the key to Pandora's box.

That said...I wonder whether George Tanber can hold on to his job by claiming protection under the "whistleblower" statutes.

Berserker said...

'I wonder whether George Tanber can hold on to his job by claiming protection under the "whistleblower" statutes.'

Not likely...

What crime did the Blade commit to warrant protection under any "whistleblower law?" Certainly, you can't be claiming that someone can make an unfounded, anonymous allegation against another and expect protection, are you?

historymike said...

Agreed, Berserker, that whistleblower status probably does not apply.

But "unfounded?" Hardly. This story stinks to high heaven, and it will get really ugly for the Blade if one of the knowledgeable parties ever decided to go public.

But it surely will not be me writing that story; I got my fill last summer.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Mike,

A messy situation any way that you look at it.

It will be interesting to see the final body count, once the bodies are done dropping.

historymike said...

Agreed, Hooda, and they might fall in unexpected places (trying to communicate something without saying it!)

Anonymous said...

I know two of the reporters involved in the Noe story and both are top-notch, honorable reporters who are true to their profession. That is not to say the third is not. I just don't know him.

Tanber has a history of run-ins with management. He wrote an article several years ago about a good friend of the publisher's. Apparently, the text got edited at someone's behest and the whole, sordid story got into Editor and Publisher magazine.

-Sepp said...

Tanber got fired last night. I heard it on the radio 5 mins ago.

Berserker said...

"But 'unfounded?' Hardly. This story stinks to high heaven, and it will get really ugly for the Blade if one of the knowledgeable parties ever decided to go public."

Well, it looks like the rumble will begin, doesn't it?

As SEPP reported Tanber was fired.

So, it seems The Blade, AND THEIR LAWYERS feels comfortable enough to do that. I bet Mr. Wenzl will hire attorneys all over Ohio, and elsewhere on contingency.

EH?

historymike said...

You are entitled to believe the version of the story that you want, Berserker.

I cannot speculate on what the Blade's next moves are, but I think Wenzl would have retained an attorney by now, since at least four articles have already run naming him as the reporter who "knew" about Coingate.

What is your connection to the Blade, Berserker? You seem to be a stalwart supporter of that paper, as well as a frequent critic of its competitors, such as the Toledo Free Press.

And, if you are NOT a Blade shill, you should be aware that there is a lot of garbage bubbling below the surface about the Blade. If only 10% of the rumors are true, the paper would be stupid to continue to pursue this.

They have their scapegoat - Tanber - and that should end this. They would be wise to avoid bringing any more attention on themselves, because more skeletons are likely to crawl out of the corporate closets.

Berserker said...

Mike, a "shill?"

Compact Oxford English Dictionary:

shill

• noun N. Amer. informal an accomplice of a hawker, gambler, or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice others.

— ORIGIN of unknown origin.


How quickly you resort to name calling!

No more than you are a shill for the Toledo Free Press. I haven't seen any criticism of that periodical on this blog, authored by you, or anywhere else that I've seen your posts. So, if you want to see a shill, then look into the mirror.

Frankly, Toledo Free Press lost all credibility when it defender Noe. So, sour grapes for you guys, eh?

"They would be wise to avoid bringing any more attention on themselves, because more skeletons are likely to crawl out of the corporate closets."

A threat? Interesting... If you think that the rumor mongers who fed you any information in the past will give you anything now -- well I thought that you were a better journalist than that. It's always, "Gee I have the story, but no one will go on the record," isn't it? Doesn't that ring a few alarm bells?

I hope The Blade blows all of this out into the public. I really do! We will then see who will be the last person standing, won't we?

historymike said...

1.Not getting into a flame war again with you, Berserker, but I will note that you did not disavow a relationship with the Blade.

You still have an opportunity to do so.

2. I write for the Toledo Free Press, and I regularly remind people of my affiliation. There's nothing hidden on my end - people know who I am, and I don't hide behind pseudonyms when I take my shots.

3. My "shill" comment was referencing the fact that you seem to appear only when there is a subject involving the Blade and the Free Press, like your ridiculous assertion that the Free Press got free rent and electricity just because it has been headquartered in the First Energy building.

4. The Free Press did not "defend" Tom Noe. They merely gave him the opportunity to put out his side of the story in an interview. Show me an example of the Free Press "defending" Noe. I challenge you, and you know why? Because it doesn't exist.

5. The word "threat" is yours, not mine. I will not be writing about the Wenzl-Noe-Blade scandal, except when it makes the news and I comment about it on my blog. I am merely noting that there are at least a dozen people with intimate knowledge of the affair du Wenzl, and eventually some will squawk. Publicly.

6. There are dozens of local journalists who know the story, Berserker. It's not a question of "if" so much as "when," but it will be a certitude if the Blade keeps trying to claim the high moral ground.

7. As far as my abilities as journalist - bite me, with a capital B. I walked away from the story when I couldn't get anyone on record - that is responsible journalism. I have never named the names of those who provided me information about the story after being promised anonymity - that is responsible journalism. I have been offered numerous chances to publish the story - without sources - in national periodicals, and I passed. That is responsible journalism. I kept working on the story even when threatened with a lawsuit - that is responsible journalism.

I follow the code of journalistic ethics, and you'd better be prepared to cite where I have ever violated that, or shut your pie hole.

(historymike notes for the record that he has just broken several important rules dealing with trolls, and that he just fueled the flame war)

Berserker said...

Where did you see in anything that I wrote that I questioned your ethics?

Where?!

Why are you so defensive?

Why did you start the name-calling and other accusations?

And again, you threaten. "It's not a question of "if" so much as "when," but it will be a certitude if the Blade keeps trying to claim the high moral ground.

Now, you can have your blog to yourself. I won't darken the doorstep, again.

I've made my point.

historymike said...

1. If you cannot see in your post how you questioned my integrity as a journalist, then you might want to consult an optometrist.

2. I could post many, many posts from Toledo Talk and this site where you have taken cheap shots at me, so don't do the innocent game, Berserker. It doesn't fit you well.

3. Again, no "threats" on my part; I am offering my assessment of the situation. There are too many sources and too many knowledgeable journlaists for this to stay buried, especially if the Blade itself keeps up the heat on the story. If the Blade lets it die, it might stay buried, in my opinion.

4. I believe - and I always have believed - that the Blade editors were in the dark on this until at least January 2005, and possibly later. Their error - if sources are to be believed - was believing that Wenzl's actions would stay in house.

5. You are welcome to visit this blog, but I will never sit back and watch my integrity get challenged. I take pride in my work, and I have never crossed the line into unethical behavior as a journalist.

historymike said...

Well, I guess I have answered my own query. Berserker is the author of a blog entitled "The Scabbard for The Blade."


Here is how he bills his site :

A place for Blade employees to share their techniques and experiences for resigning from their unions. Here's a good place to discuss innovations that union work rules would stifle. Additionally, members should discuss mobilization issues for continuing our important work to offer Toledo our great newspaper regardless of whether unions strike, or not! I am not a manager, just a concerned Blade union member who thinks that the unions are wrong to deny management their rights to manage.

Got an agenda, Berserker?

Berserker said...

I have an agenda, just like you do. We are just on other sides of the issue.

And please, spare me the "I am just trying to help Toledo." crap. Your here hawking your wares and crapping on The Blade every time you get a chance.

Also, you are definately deluded, if you can see anywhere in my posts that I have questioned your integrity. You should see someone about that problem.

Anyway, if The Blade goes on strike, then maybe you would be considered for a real journalism job.

That's my agenda.

Anonymous said...

So does anyone know what Wenzel is doing these days?

historymike said...

1. I have great respect for the Blade and its employees, and have posted positive information about the paper many times. Try here for one. Perhaps you only remember the pieces in which I have been critical of the Blade.

2. "Opposite sides" - I have no "side" with regard to the Blade. When I agree with them, I say so; when they deserve praise, I dish it out; when they need a kick in the ass, I dish it out. I have no agenda beyond writing about interesting subjects with which people will connect.

3. I have no delusions about "saving Toledo." I consider it a good day when I can remember where my car keys are.

4. If you truly were not impugning my integrity, then I apologize.

5. As for a "real journlaism job," I have several thoughts:
a) I have one at the Free Press;
b) The Blade is not exactly the New York Times, so your implied crowing falls flat;
c) Were I to choose journalism as my lifetime calling, I have no doubt that I could perform admirably at any paper in the country. My goal, however, is to teach history, and I am currently working on my doctorate.

Berserker said...

Wenzel is lining up his attorneys for a frontal attack on people who have attacked his ethics and credibility.

And I mean ATTORNEYS.

historymike said...

Anonymous:

Fritz Wenzel is in the campaign consulting business. His first role - which began in April 2005 while he was still with the Blade - was spearheading the media campaign for Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Cincinnati).

He helped pull off a remarkable upset in the GOP primary, and led her campaign to defeat Paul Hackett.

Kate said...

"No more than you are a shill for the Toledo Free Press. I haven't seen any criticism of that periodical on this blog, authored by you, or anywhere else that I've seen your posts." berserker.

1. Actually the comment was 'if' you weren't a Blade shill. You are the party who claims this was name calling - which would indicate you think that shoe fits. Me too.

2. You say: "I hope The Blade blows all of this out into the public. I really do! We will then see who will be the last person standing, won't we?"

That would speak to the opposite of your being associated with the Blade. I'm sure they don't want anymore daylight on this story than is already shining through. Everybody who's ever done anything of consequence has made mistakes. Therefore the skeletons exist. If you haven't any - more power to you. Now go and do something.

3. "Now, you can have your blog to yourself. I won't darken the doorstep, again." Ah, but you did didn't ya.

You like to use caps with the ATTORNEYS and LAWYERS. You aren't scaring anybody. In fact, I kind of giggled a little bit and it's hot out today - so thank you ever so kindly.

Kate said...

LAWYERS....roar. Sorry, I'm still giggling.

historymike said...

Berserker:

If, indeed, Mr. Wenzel is planning a "frontal attack," he sure has waited a long time to do so.

Me? I'd be siccing the lawyers from Day One, but certainly after the Salon.com piece ran.

You seem to know a lot about Fritz. Why has he not been suing Salon, the City Paper, and every other outlet that covered this story?

Heck, even JRB distanced himself from Wenzel in the Salon story:

"You don't just leave on one day and then immediately set up your consulting business," Block says. "I think that in his final period at the Blade, it was getting close to a conflict of interest. I'm not going to deny that."

historymike said...

(laughs at Kates comments)

Berserker said...

Hey.

I'm not providing a warranty with this information.

[ignoring Kate's catcalls from the cheap seats...]

You can wonder why he didn't do this before. I think -- but I don't know -- that Mr. Wenzel can supoena the incriminating evidence that The Blade has.

And if you beieve that Mr. Tanber admitted his involvement, only to save his fellow employees the embarassment, then I have a bridge... The Blade has the goods on the guy.

Also, I am NOT the same person as Erie Island.

So, whilst we with real jobs have work to do... Please forgive me for not furnishing any further replies.

historymike said...

1. As far as "incriminating evidence," that would be a stretch. Perhaps "evidence that Tanber wrote a letter to the Pulitzer committee" would be more accurate. I have never heard anyone - even the Blade - accuse Tanber of a criminal act.

2. There are numerous sources at the Blade who claimed knowledge of Wenzel's efforts to bury the story, including an oft-repeated boast that Wenzel supposedly made in the newsroom - in front of many people - in which he told Coingate writers that "he knew about this months ago." Tanber is far from the only person who knows about this at the Blade.

3. Accepting your statement about not being Erie Island.

4. Just had to try and get a last dig in there, didn't you: "we with real jobs have work to do." I appreciate the jest, but were you posting from work?

BTW - I have three real jobs; four if you count freelance editing.

Anonymous said...

You'd think Wenzel would be happy about the story coming out now that he works for the Republicans. This just makes him look like a loyal party man.

Anonymous said...

The Blade isn't running from this story getting plenty of sunlight. Stay tuned.

historymike said...

That last post was confusing to me. Are you saying the Blade isn't running away from the story, or that the Blade will not let the story get sunlight?

Also, while maintaining your anonymity, how do you know what you know?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be unclear, Mike. I meant the Blade is NOT going to keep the public in the dark about its investigation or Fritz's inaction or what really happened. Just be patient for a day or two and you'll see facts where now there is merely speculation.

I can't say how I know this, but you'll see soon enough that I do know. I will say this: I am not a Blade employee, nor am I sssociated with them or the series reporters in any way.

I am surprised by the online opinions I've been reading regarding Tanber and the big bad Blade. Maybe some people are so biased against The Blade, they can't imagine that someone acting against The Blade's interests could possibly be in the wrong (I am not talking about you, by the way).

My opinon may be colored by my having read the infamous Pulitzer letter. It was clear to me that the author's purpose was to affect the awarding of the Pulitzer Prize, thereby harming not just the employer he appeared to detest, but the reporters who did such fine work on the series. It wasn't a brave stand for "truth." It was a mean spirited action that said far more about Tanber than it did about The Blade.

There was something said in that letter about a specific person that I know for a fact to be untrue, and which I believe to be actionable. If I were that person, I would already have my lawyer on the case, particularly since that statement may (and I stress "may") link Tanber to another anonymous letter that had only one purpose: to harm the individual in question.

It is a joke that Tanber is now saying he came forward so innocent colleagues wouldn't be blamed. He was caught through old fashioned investigative techniques; he was also turned in. His friends were not the good friends he thought they were. He forgot a vital truth: self-interest could cause others to act as selfishly as he did when they felt the noose tightening.

In short, this was not the act of a hero or a whistleblower. It was the act of a disgruntled employee who was such a coward he didn't even put his name on what he wrote.

Like me.

Anonymous said...

Previous anonymous:

Do you feel this has anything to do with company-union labor issues?

Anonymous said...

No.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. Why do I get the feeling we're talking to Deep Throat in the middle of the night in a empty parking garage?

Brian said...

Maybe you feel that way because everybody's anonymous.

Based on what I know, Tanber got what he deserved. Those reporters worked hard on that story and it was a fine piece of journalism.

He reminds me of John W. Dean -- a guy I think is one of history's great traitors.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote:

Sorry to be unclear, Mike. I meant the Blade is NOT going to keep the public in the dark about its investigation or Fritz's inaction or what really happened.

I've wondered about this since I read the Salon article: Why didn't the Blade fire Wenzel at the first wiff of his conflicting loyalties and then make that part of the story? Were they afraid that it would appear that as if they couldn't control their own team by disclosing Wenzel's disloyalty?

historymike said...

Very much agreed that Coingate was excellent journalism, Brian.

historymike said...

Tough questions, anonymous.

My take:

I think that the Blade editors made some mistakes, not the least of which was keeping FW on. The going-away party at Belmont for FW pissed off a lot of people, and not just because he may have sat on Coingate.

By that time he was already working as a GOP and Zogby consultant while still writing his political columns. While this was not illegal, it was ethically unaceptable, and the Blade should have added disclaimers to his work noting this conflict.

In hindsight, perhaps the Blade was just too loyal to Fritz, and it would have given the paper a huge boost of credibility in 2005 by publicly censuring him.

Unfortunately, corporate officials sometimes make the call to sweep internal problems under the rug, and this one came to back to haunt the paper.

If the Blade comes out and does a mea culpa on this much - that they SHOULD have canned FW - I think they will come out looking OK, but if they try to dump it all on Tanber they will look like they are hiding something.

Berserker said...

Mike,

This an extremely unhappy time for people in the newsroom.

I know that you think that you know something about what happened(s) at The Blade. You have calimed to have talked to people there. Please keep in mind that I am not the only person with an agenda.

Before you rely on those who will not go on the record, please wait until we have a chance to tell our story. And we will, shortly.

Like the person said. "Stay tuned."

I have a hard time concealing my disdain for someone, who is on the outside, claiming that The Blade, or The Blade management owes anyone a mea culpa regarding Coingate coverage or the handling of internal personnel issues that had no impact upon the reporting of the story.

historymike said...

I await the Blade coverage, and withhold any further commentary until any new developments occur.

I have talked to people in and out of the Blade who claim such knowledge, and when so much smoke billows around, one believes a fire exists someplace.

As far as what I "know," that is not much. I "know" that Fritz simultaneously worked for the GOP, Zogby, and the Blade, with no apparent concern for conflict of interest (confirmed by SOS records and Zogby).

I "know" that his son PJ got a nice GOP job around the same time (confirmed to me by state GOP chair Bob Bennett).

But beyond that, all I "know" is that a lot of people have been talking about coverups, payoffs, and all sorts of salacious tales, with none who would go on the record.

So I, like every other interested reader, will await the Blade's account of Fritzgate, Tanbergate, or whatever "gate" they choose to call this story, and I trust that the coverage will be thorough and honest.

As far as your "disdain," I too have disdain for someone who would repeat ridiculous rumors about the Toledo Free Press even when presented with evidence to the contrary.

Berserker said...

Regarding the Toledo Free Press...

Call the facilities mgr.

The Toledo Free Press is the only scandalous rag in this town.

If I have to name names at First Energy, then you haven't even looked into this, and thus would rather rant without knowledge, like you have regarding your comments about The Blade.

historymike said...

Yes, please name names, Berserker. Tell us who you spoke to that said the Free Press gets free rent and/or electricity from First Energy.

I would love to confirm this.

What is the facility manager's name and number?

As far as "looking into this," editor Michael Miller has publicly denied any such relationship. Combined with your supposed queries to First Energy, you have one hell of a story! Pass it on to Ron Royhab and you'll beat me out for a Touchstone next fall.

Heck, you might even wind up with a Ohio Newspaper Association or (GASP) Pulitzer award.

McCaskey said...

Ah, HM, you know how much I enjoy your blog and we seem to be on the same wave length on many topics, and I have no desire to be the third man in the ring with you and Berserker.
But this is something I've wondered about for some time and I might as well ask now...why on the your list of links under Toledo News Sources you include every single possible print, radio and TV source except the area's premier daily newspaper. I mean, it's your blog, and you can do what you want, but I've always found this to be very curious and at times made me skeptical about whatever comments you make about the Blade..

By the way, nice essay on the Marines-Iraqi civilians murder situation.

historymike said...

Good question, McCaskey.

I actually yanked the Blade from my list after the despicable article they ran on Free Press publisher Tom Pounds last year, as well as the condescending BS that Jack Lessenberry wrote about me when I complained about the article to the Blade's lapdog...err..ombudsman.

One of these days I'll put them back up.

McCaskey said...

Question asked, question answered. Thanks.

Berserker said...

And...

Case closed.

So much for any pretense of objectivity regarding The Blade in anything you post here, Mike.

c-ya

historymike said...

Whatever, Berserker. So I am somehow not objective about the Blade because I pulled a link on my personal blog to their website in protest over a piece of yellow journalism?

Thou doth protest too much.

McCaskey said...

Christ, sorry HM. I didn't mean to fuel the fire or give the other guy ammo. That said, I think you're better served adding a Blade link, if for appearance purposes only. But, as I said earlier, this is your blog, your business.

Anonymous said...

What does anyone think of today's story on Tanber? Look at E&P for new story posting today.

Why would the Blade:

1. Turn an internal personnel matter into what is now plainly a bitter and disgruntled news story about their not winning a Pulitizer for Hmmm ... PUBLIC SERVICE?

2. Not publish the entire Tanber letter; Pulitzer letter to Blade;
entire Royhab letter to Pulitzer
Committee? Snippets of letters are never what they seem ... are they?

Journalistic integrity warrants that full disclosure of the content of all correcpondence be published to allow every individual to form their own conclusions?

3. Why would the Blade take this internal matter and announce to the entire industry that they hired investigators, forensic experts, and a big gun law firm
to find who might have ambushed
their Pulitzer chances if they were not crying about losing? The noble thing to do would be to handle the entire affair internally
;not externally.

4. Frankly, in a newsroom where
even the hint of a journalist's integrity is even gossiped about is worthy of an internal investigation. I am not sure, but I believe that JRB in either Salon or E&P actually affirms that their
were rumors about Wenzel ... so why didn't the Blade do the ethical thing and investigate Wenzel when the rumors were being circulated?

Just observations and my take.
and investigated

Anonymous said...

[What does anyone think of today's story on Tanber? Look at E&P for new story posting today.]

I thought it was fascinating reading. I had to laugh at the part of the E&P story where they appear to be stung by The Blade's printing some emails sent back and forth between Tanber's fake ID and E&P's Joe Strupp. They make noises about this being some sort of violation of the protection of sources, at least by implication. E&P, a news outlet I generally admire, seems to be overlooking the fact that those emails were owned by The Blade as soon as they showed up on a Blade-owned laptop, and were theirs to use as they wished. Neither party to those emails was a Blade source that required protection.

Having said that, I do wonder if, even while owning them, The Blade could legally publish the emails. Doesn't copyright come into play here, with the author having final say on the publication of them? I'm thinking of J.D. Salinger's lawsuit involving publication of his letters. I thought that case established the law regarding copyright as applied to such communications. It led to authors having to paraphrase letters when writing books, thereby taking away a lot of the punch the letters themselves would have delivered.

[Why would the Blade:
1. Turn an internal personnel matter into what is now plainly a bitter and disgruntled news story about their not winning a Pulitizer for Hmmm ... PUBLIC SERVICE?]

As soon as Tanber went outside the Blade family to launch an attack, it was no longer an internal personnel matter.

That anyone could see today's report as "plainly a bitter and disgruntled news story about their not winning a Pulitizer for Hmmm ... PUBLIC SERVICE" is stunning. It suggests a bias against the Blade that runs so deep, it hampers the ability to process new information in a fair manner. This wasn't about losing anything; it was about an employee being so disgruntled, he wanted to do something "lethal" (Tanber's word, not mine) to the folks supplying his paycheck. He did this at the sacrifice of truth, but in the name of so-called truth. To claim the higher journalistic ground in that manner is remarkably passive-aggressive, but also remarkably transparent.

It's obvious Tanber did not act alone. There's a current of conspiracy underlying today's revelations, and I do not expect the way things now stand to be the end of this story. I do expect legal activity in the months ahead.

Sallah comes out smelling as something less lovely than a rose (which breaks my heart because I have admired his work for many years), and Frogameni is, well, everything I thought him to be. My opinion: He was a participant in this smear by way of (at the very least) his toledotalk post. The identical phrase from the Pulitzer letter can no longer be given the benefit of the doubt in terms of a coincidence. It's also my opinion that he was furthering Tanber's smear in a discussion forum just in case news of the letter didn't reach the public before the Pulitzers were announced.

My opinion also extends to this view: The Pulitzers were providing the framework for this attack, but had a Pulitzer nomination not been forthcoming, this attack would have happened in another venue, even if that venue had to be created by the participant(s).

What's saddest about the whole episode is that an excellent reporting team became collateral damage. This never, ever should have happened. But, apparently, in Tanber's world, other people exist solely for his use and abuse. I think there may be a diagnosis that can be applied to that world view.

Also, whether some people can admit it or not, the Coingate series served a valuable public service. Get over it.

[2. Not publish the entire Tanber letter; Pulitzer letter to Blade;
entire Royhab letter to Pulitzer
Committee? Snippets of letters are never what they seem ... are they?]

In this case, they (the snippets) are. It would have been extremely bad form for The Blade to publish the whole letter. It contains untrue charges against individuals. Other local media also knew better than to make public those charges when they received copies of the letter.

The responsible thing for The Blade to do was to decline to expose those charges to the public. I hope they continue to maintain this stance. I would guess their lawyers would wisely advise them to withhold the full text.

The Pulitzer letter to The Blade was short and sweet, asking for a response. The Blade provided that as requested, in detail, but to publish that response would be to give a public airing of the untrue charges against the innocent individuals. That would have been tawdry, pointless, and actionable.

[Journalistic integrity warrants that full disclosure of the content of all correcpondence be published to allow every individual to form their own conclusions?]

No, it doesn't. Why should the public receive raw, unvetted charges so, in their ignorance of the facts, they can form opinions? "Journalistic integrity" is not demonstrated in this fashion.

[3. Why would the Blade take this internal matter and announce to the entire industry that they hired investigators, forensic experts, and a big gun law firm
to find who might have ambushed
their Pulitzer chances if they were not crying about losing?]

Tanber took this from a private to a public arena when he tried so hard to affect the outcome of what is a very public award. But the Pulitzers are actually quite beside the point in all this. The Blade investigated an attack on their integrity and journalistic standards -- not the cause of their losing the top prize. Being a runner up in the Public Service category ain't exactly chopped liver. They have no cause to be suffering loser's angst.

The Blade has never said they believe the Pulitzer letter caused them to lose the prize. I don't think there are many in the thinking world who believe any series by anyone could have topped in-depth Katrina coverage. That, in turn, makes the whole Tanber episode all the more pathetic. He nailed his own coffin shut with an act that had no real-world purpose if his desire was to see The Blade lose the prize. It was lost as soon as Katrina hit. I doubt anyone in serious journalism would think otherwise. But had Katrina suddenly made a sharp right turn, I think the outcome of the Pulitzers would have been in The Blade's favor, letter or no letter.

Or to put it more concisely: The Blade was investigating an attack on its journalistic standards, not the loss of an award. Because their journalistic standards are a matter of public interest, it was their duty to address the attack publicly -- to tell their readers what they did to look into the letter's charges, and what conclusions they reached.

Just look at all the flame-throwing that went on while the investigation was underway and not yet made public. Then, their silence was cast as something akin to satanic; now it's their detailed information that's under attack by some. That simply shows that some people are unwilling to think a single positive thought about The Blade, regardless of the facts. Sometimes I think people are born with one of three genes: hate The Blade, love The Blade, and what's The Blade?

[The noble thing to do would be to handle the entire affair internally
;not externally.]

Sure. That way conspiracy theorists could have had at them from now through eternity, unchecked. That would have been convenient for those who have it in their DNA to hate The Blade even in the face of facts that exonerate them.

[4. Frankly, in a newsroom where
even the hint of a journalist's integrity is even gossiped about is worthy of an internal investigation. I am not sure, but I believe that JRB in either Salon or E&P actually affirms that their
were rumors about Wenzel ... so why didn't the Blade do the ethical thing and investigate Wenzel when the rumors were being circulated?]

There are two reasons for this. I hope they're never made public because they are harmful to innocent people. The reasons do not constitute a cover-up on the part of The Blade in the sense that The Blade is a company and the sum total of all its many parts, but neither are the reasons career-boosters for some of their employees. I can say this: the reasons are not sinister -- except, possibly, on the part of one person. And I do mean only "possibly" because it can be argued either way.

Anonymous said...

I think I've found the answer to my own question:

"The original author of an email letter holds the copyright on that email and that email is protected under the same laws as a physical letter.

"So unless the author has granted permission for the email to be reprinted or it is being reprinted under the conditions of fair use, the reproduction, forwarding, copying or modifying an email is copyright infringement."

My guess is that The Blade can claim "fair use" regarding the non-Tanber emails; the Tanber emails belong to them because they're the employers and they were written on company equipment (per information I found elsewhere).

Anonymous said...

Previous anonymous: keep posting your opinions, comments, and any new insights into this matter...it's damn interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

Strange thing about this story: the only "good guy" in my view (Joe Kidd, original whistle-blower) is the only one forced into hiding. Blade editors and other assorted conspirators are still roaming the streets in the light of day.

Joe Kidd borrowed $10,000 from his father (JK Sr.) some time ago, and hasn't been seen since. His dad and mine are retired from GM hydramatic.

Kidd finally went to the feds because Fritz told Bernadette Noe that he had gone to him with the story. This led to Joe Kidd's dismissal from the Board of Elections and subsequent retibutive whistle-blowing on Mrs. Noe.

Kidd had nowhere left to turn at that point. I remember hearing about it when Kidd went to the Feds. His father was concerned his son would be jailed.. or worse.. because he was really playing his last card. When he walked into the FBI, he feared he would never be seen again.

Another "good guy" Sallah, was apparently nudged out of The Blade by the cabal. He was one of The Blade's better reporter.

Anonymous said...

Mike Sallah wasn't nudged out of The Blade. He used his Pultizer to grab a bigger, better job in Miami. It was the same story with Sam Roe after his series was a finalist for the Pulitzer, except he went to Chicago. Once a reporter catches the eye of the Pulitzer Committee, publishers and potential employers come calling.

The Blade must know when they pour their resources into an extensive series that they will, ultimately, lose the very reporters to whom they give these extraordinary opportunities and support.

I agree with my fellow anonymous poster that Joe Kidd has been a "good guy" in all this, but he is not in hiding. I spotted him at the grocery store a while back and at a West Toledo restaurant not all that long ago. A good-looking chap, I must say.

I very much doubt that he took revenge on Bernadette. If you'll recall, Bernadette went to the prosecutor with false accusations against him. My guess would be that he simply defended himself by pointing out to prosecutors that if anyone should be looked at as part of a criminal investigation, it would be the Noes.

I hope someday he'll tell his side of what happened.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Previous anonymous: keep posting your opinions, comments, and any new insights into this matter...it's damn interesting reading.
Sunday, May 28, 2006 4:45:21 PM

“That anyone could see today's report as "plainly a bitter and disgruntled news story about their not winning a Pulitzer for Hmmm ... PUBLIC SERVICE" is stunning. It suggests a bias against the Blade that runs so deep, it hampers the ability to process new information in a fair manner.”
----------------------------------
Why is it that when anyone still breathing while reading and has a personal view of the Blade that such person is cast as an individual who is biased and therefore unable to fairly assess the Blade’s reportage. As news stories change, so does an opinion.

Since when is blind allegiance to a newspaper a requisite to having a personal opinion about the morality and ethics of such newspaper on certain subject matter? Facts, as presented in any news story, generally determine the opinion of such story; selective facts presented at fifty percent are at best only fifty percent of a news story and therefore less believable or reliable.

There is nothing less noble than a news organization creating a myth about protecting the integrity of its journalists, while really trying to protect its
own myth of itself.

Pursuing public vendettas based upon self-righteousness oftentimes does more harm than good for all involved parties.

Why would the Blade open up a protected personnel file for public viewing as it did with Tanber’s file? Past internal personnel matters already dealt with are not really fodder for public consumption. And is it legal to take a private personnel file and make its content public when there is no litigation where public outing of its content might be relevant to such litigation?

And can other Blade journalists expect the same to happen to them if they too get embroiled into a public tiff with Blade management?

Dave Murray implies that the half-revelations in the now on-going news saga about the Blade, Tanber, Wenzel, entourage of others, and the elusive Pulitzer for public service, the grandest of Pulitzers, was not being done to hurt anyone;and yet we now know what is partially in Tanber’s personnel file because we read it in the Blade.

It is both reprehensible and unconscionable to find that this self-story replaces hard news that deals with the war, economics, poverty, and privacy issues.

The Blade’s Tiger Force series was excellent reading and shed light into the tragedy of war and the unsung heroes of a forgotten war.

The CoinGate series indeed was a public service.

However,it seems that such investigate reportage on CoinGate was basically derived from journalists reviewing reports of various state agencies already paid for with public funds and then formulating those reports into news stories.

The Blade clearly did make an impact with those stories as to how state public dollars are now invested and that is commendable.

I am still unclear about all the Noe off-shore bank accounts and investments and the whereabouts of state public funds. The global intrigue asserted by the Blade regarding foreign ties to Ohio’s missing CoinGate money simply seems to have been speculative reportage as the hard-core investigative links simply never surfaced to validate those claims yet.

The following reply to number four is unacceptable as it averts the moral and ethical obligation a newspaper must follow to keep its journalists and its reputation above reproach. Rumors, hunches, and “anonymous” sources and whistleblowers are the gristmill of a real investigative and constitutional news room. To state that innocent people could be hurt and that the Blade is comprised of many parts to explain why JRB or any Blade editor or manager did not investigate the rumors swirling around one of its own journalists simply defies journalistic integrity and ethics.

Why didn’t the Blade thoroughly investigate the rumors surrounding Wenzel to either dispel the rumors or confront them? On one hand the Blade failed to protect all its journalists by failing to investigate one; on the other hand, there is now a full-frontal attack upon a number of journalists and others that involves hiring a big-gun law firm; computer forensics; and two investigators because of a letter
written to the Pulitzer board by a disgruntled employee … who according to his now public personnel file played troublesome pranks … the Blade could have
averted any Pulitzer controversy by simply doing what a newspaper is obligated to do … take a rumor and investigate its veracity.

Also, what does “one” sinister person have to do with why the Blade did not investigate an internal and significant rumor about a journalist on its payroll?
___________________________________
4. Frankly, in a newsroom where
even the hint of a journalist's integrity is even gossiped about is worthy of an internal investigation. I am not sure, but I believe that JRB in either Salon or E&P actually affirms that their were rumors about Wenzel ... so why didn't the Blade do the ethical thing and investigate Wenzel when the rumors were being circulated?]

There are two reasons for this. I hope they're never made public because they are harmful to innocent people. The reasons do not constitute a cover-up on the part of The Blade in the sense that The Blade is a company and the sum total of all its many parts, but neither are the reasons career-boosters for some of their employees. I can say this: the reasons are not sinister -- except, possibly, on the part of one person. And I do mean only "possibly" because it can be argued either way.

I am not sure how the Blade operates internally. Hypothetically, if the Blade makes a commitment to investigate a news story does it also make a commitment to invest the time, journalists and allocate the necessary resources to investigate such news story?

The Toledo Free Press stated in a story that Fritz Byers told them he is no longer associated with the Blade as legal counsel; is this true or false?

This posting is simply my perspective as I have no relevant interest other than following the journalistic news story to see how ethics and legalities play out.

Opinions change with relevant facts; not unfounded innuendos and rumors.

Anonymous said...

What I meant about the cover-up was that The Blade as an institution did not involve itself in a cover-up despite charges by some that they did. But that is not to say that an employee did not, or that an employee simply didn't delve into the information and write a story. Whether he had sinister intentions when doing or not doing what he did or didn't do can be argued either way. He has given a reason for why he behaved as he did and it could be genuine. Or not. But it is a reason shared by others at the paper who also ignored the information.

I don't know where you got the idea that The Blade did not investigate the rumors that were swirling. They did. They have also made statements on the record about that investigation. Some dismiss what they said as lies or BS, the typical knee-jerk reaction that some have to all things Blade and Block. If someone is comfortable with that self-delusion, so be it, but The Blade told the truth.

Anonymous said...

Journalists are in a very precarious mode right now.

Lives are lost and interrupted because journalists take a stand for the people. Living in the U.S. does not insulate or isolate a quality investigative journalist and their family from the wrath of those in power who feel threatened by the power of a single journalist's voice to expose public corruption or criminal activity. However,one voice is easily silenced.

Nuevo Laredo is a place where investigative journalists are gunned down in the arms of their family. The difference between a journalist murdered in Mexico for exposing corruption to that of
attempts on an American journalist's life for doing the same thing is that the Mexican
journalist becomes a celebrated
journalistic statistic ... the U.S.
journalist simply becomes an unnoticed victim because the United States protects is journalists from harm ...

Therefore, it is the strength of the newspaper and its journalists
to place immense value on fair reportage despite how either the reporter or publisher feels about certain individuals or entities; it is the obligation of the newspaper to insure such fair reportage is done without direct
interference in a journalist's
new story. Only when their is major fabrication or decption in a story should a newspaper yeild a sword to slice through what is fact and what is fiction.

Whether the Blade actually investigated throughly the rumors
regarding Wenzel is really unknown to me as I have no direct knowledge as to whether or not such an investigation ever actually occured. If such an investigation took place, it was never made public as to how the Blade self-policed the journalist in question and how such investigation was conducted.

I don't think throwing a going-away party for a questionable journalist helps the veracity of
the Blade stance and most likely only caused a rift within the newsroom that seems to not want to go away.

The Blade is its own sword and it can fall upon such sword either way on any given day.

Two questions, is Byers still the Blade's attorney; and does the Blade always stand beside a commitmment it makes?

Anonymous said...

Apologies for any comments where spelling and grammar is incorrect.
I am attempting to do three things
at one time ... not a good decision.

Anonymous said...

[Two questions, is Byers still the Blade's attorney; and does the Blade always stand beside a commitmment it makes?]

1. I don't know.

2. I don't know.