Toledo Will Be Just Fine

Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

In any major dispute, when you peel back the layers of the onion, at the center lies a struggle for power.H. Beecher Hicks, Jr.

In major disputes, whether they be political, organizational, or interpersonal, the underlying tensions typically boil down to one core issue – a struggle for power.

This struggle manifests through various avenues, such as who will have control over limited assets or resources. Sometimes, the conflict stems from a battle over influence or who has the power to make decisions that affect immediate outcomes and long-term strategies, shaping the environment according to the powerholder’s interests and ideologies.

Disputes also often occur when one party feels another’s exertion of control is threatening their autonomy. At other times, the underlying issue is a desire for increased status or recognition, where acknowledgment of one’s role or status becomes a point of contention.

All of these potential scenarios form the backdrop for Allan Block’s recent lawsuit against his brother, John Robinson Block, The Blade’s publisher and editor-in-chief, and other board members.

Allan Block, the CEO and chairman of Block Communications, Inc., the parent company of The Blade, Buckeye Broadband and other companies, aims to prevent the sale of The Blade and other properties, arguing that such a sale could lead to the shutdown of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and significant job losses in Toledo and Pittsburgh.

On the one hand, this battle does reflect broader trends of media consolidation in its resultant threat to local journalism, which is critical for the informed current media landscape. This trend has led to the emergence of “news deserts,” areas with limited access to local news, which threatens democratic engagement and community awareness.

On the other, however, John Block’s significant influence in Toledo’s politics, shaped through his leadership of The Blade and The Pittsburgh Gazette, highlights the strong impact of media ownership on political power.

John Block’s approval was crucial for local political candidates, showcasing the significant gatekeeping power of media through the Toledo Blade. Under John’s control, The Blade’s support was known to make or break local political campaigns through its influential editorials and coverage.

For a long time, you didn’t want to cross him, and if you were running for mayor, you drove to Pittsburgh to “kiss the ring” or pay homage. I can tell you Sandy Isenberg and many former mayors, such as Jack Ford and Carty Finkbeiner, all made that trip to Pittsburgh once John moved there.

Once, when the potential dismantling of MCO took place, John Robinson Block wanted to talk to Carty about it. He sent his private plane to pick up the Republican councilman for District 2, so that’s how close they are,” according to a local media analyst.

However, the rise of digital media and alternative news sources has diversified where and how people get their news, diminishing the gatekeeping role once held by major newspapers like The Blade. So that ship may have sailed, as The Blade’s editorials no longer carry as much weight today as they did formerly.

Yet, as traditional media figures like John Block lose some of their clout, new voices and platforms can shape public discourse. This transition reflects the changing nature of media influence in the digital age, where power is more dispersed and the public has access to a wider range of information sources.

Does it make sense for the Block brothers to sell the businesses and cash out?

Currently, The Blade has scaled back its print operations to just two issues a week and faces the risk of extinction, similar to other traditional newspapers. Meanwhile, Block Communications Inc., with its stranglehold on the cable market in Toledo, remains profitable and has been subsidizing the financial challenges of its print media division.

“I think Allan is saying with the lawsuit, Hey, you know what? Let’s give up the print media, and we’ll absorb the electronic media. We’ll dispatch reporters to whatever stories need to be dispatched. They print the story, send it to us, and then we make sure it gets out electronically. Done!” the analyst speculated.

While financial concerns are not an issue for either brother, John Block seeks more influence and power, while Allan is focused on building a lasting legacy.

As the print medium declines, John faces losing his influence over local politics and civic leaders, potentially marginalizing him. Meanwhile, Allan Block is comfortable transitioning away from unprofitable print to focus on a digital legacy. While both brothers aim to leave a legacy, the media analyst surmised that John clings to his past influence in Toledo, which is fading, while Allan embraces digital evolution.

The building on Superior Street is projected to close eventually, and a few local reporters will cover stories remotely from their homes as technology allows for this setup.

In brief, aligning with the notion that major disputes often stem from a fundamental struggle for power, the clash over the direction of Block Communications is a vivid example. The battle reveals deep-rooted power dynamics that are characteristic not only of family-owned businesses but also reflective of broader societal and organizational conflict.

This rivalry not only affects the stakeholders within the company but also has broader implications for employees, the local news landscape, and the communities they serve.

The good news is that the transition could also provide significant opportunities for the Black press and platforms like Black Twitter to expand their roles in local journalism. These platforms have historically thrived by filling gaps left by mainstream media, particularly in covering news and stories relevant to African American communities, often overlooked by mainstream media.

With the restructuring, then, outlets like our own Sojourner’s Truth have the potential to increase their local presence, offering targeted news and continuing to engage our community in meaningful ways often overlooked by traditional powerhouses like The Blade.

In any event, Toledo will be just fine.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at