Deadline Now: Remembering Paul Block Jr.
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Deadline Now: Remembering Paul Block Jr.

Friday, June17, 2011

Tom Walton, Columnist and retired Editor of The Blade and Douglas Neckers, McMaster Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at Bowling Green State University join host Jack Lessenberry to remember the remarkable life of Paul Block Jr. -- civic activist, internationally renowned scientist and co-publisher of The Blade. 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of Deadline Now:

For some reason, Paul Block Junior, or PBJR, as he was known in the office, took a liking to me when I was a young reporter at The Blade in the late 70s and early 1980s. I think it was because I could speak some French, and he took that to mean I was intelligent.

I did my best not to allow him to discover the truth. I cannot claim to have known him as well as some people did, although from time to time he would have serious discussions with me.
He was remarkable in a number of ways in addition to all those we’ve been discussing tonight. Even in his time, newspapers were mostly owned by large groups of chains, and the men who ran them were all about making money -- as much as possible.

That’s not how Paul Block saw the world. Once, someone told him he could double the newspaper’s profits if he was willing to do certain things, including cutting down on quality. He told the man he wasn’t interested, that the paper made enough for him.
He saw journalism as being something different than making and selling a product. He believed newspapers had a responsibility to their communities, to try to make them better places to live.

You could disagree with what he thought the best way to do that was, and many people did. Nobody, however, could accuse Paul Block of not caring about Toledo. Some of his attempts at downtown redevelopment didn’t succeed in the long run.

Others, however such as the former Medical College of Ohio, now part of the University of Toledo, and the Yamasaki-designed Government Center added greatly to this community.

Paul Block was anything but perfect. He could be eccentric, irascible, hard-headed, and didn’t always suffer fools gladly. But he maintained and  set a standard for journalism in this area that continues to be impressive. He was a man who made a career of seeing ahead of his time, whether in the field of atomic energy or in recognizing how corrupt the Nixon Administration was.

The Blade won a Pulitzer Prize and came close to two others in recent years for doing quality journalism of a kind few papers of its size would even attempt. Paul Block was long dead when this happened, but he left a legacy that led to that work.

And some of us still miss him.