Guest columnist: Frank Hartzell 
Publisher, Business to Business Journal 

Corporate 'community journalism' cheats the public 

To me, about the worst thing to come along for newspapers and for America
since television is the Pew Institute.  Featured in the Wall Street Journal,
this foul organization exists to kill investigative reporting, They do this by pressuring the media to stop investigating government and business and write only "community journalism" -- in short, stories about sugar, spice and everything NICE.

A story from The Washington Post read:

"A poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that news from Washington -- about the campaign finance controversy or the legislative impasse in Congress, for example --  has been arousing little reader interest. Only 6 percent of those asked said they closely followed news of the Helsinki, Finland, summit between President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin."

The story went on to say that the aptly named Pew Institute has learned that
disaffected newspaper readers want more stories about what their neighbors
are doing and less about complex and important matters of world news,
business and government.

Forget the Endangered Species Act.  Write about Timmy's pet frog!
This is a pure logic loop, of course. While everybody says they want to
read about their daughter's performance in the elementary school version of
Robin Hood, none of these same people wants to read about the school play
being performed six blocks over.  It is dull, folks.

If I have ever been to Cookeville or Putnam County, I don't remember it.  But next time I will stop to see a place where people are open-minded enough to support a newspaper of the quality of The Putnam Pit, which I am reading online in my office in Yuba County, California.

The Putnam Pit is a lot like the newspapers our founding fathers read, in the days before Time-Warner Bros-Disney-Turner-ABC-666 took over the news media of this great nation. The founding fathers were often assaulted by such newspapers, but unlike your local city officials, they understood how that was part of what made this nation great. They made their 1st amendment the Freedom of the Press in order to preserve a watchdog-- that sometimes bit them.  It was called the 4th Estate because it was SEPARATE from the three branches of government.

Big government and big corporations will never like newspapers like The Putnam Pit, which refuse to cover up for them. I bet they try to portray The Pit as "negative"  or "inaccurate" or somehow hurtful of the image of the community. Don't believe it.  A place where political diversity exists is the best place to locate and run a business.

Under corporate ownership, all newspapers practice some degree of telephone
book journalism, encyclopedia journalism and the like and all are losing
readership fast. People want to learn something from the newspaper, not be
force fed some good news about the local community from the chamber of

The larger the paper, the less effective telephone book community journalism
is.  And maybe we can learn a lesson from the car industry on this. They
gave people what they wanted, bigger cars, bigger motors, instead of what
they needed, quality and gas mileage, in the name of capitalism.  Then when
people realized what they needed, they abandoned the big three.  People will
realize that newspapers don't serve any need when they profile the county
fair and the bake sales and ignore the abuses of government and business.

Sadly, today the corporate newspapers exist mostly to market government corporations and socialistic, tax-money spending "civic" organizations.

I am the publisher of a business journal in Yuba City, Calif., that attracts all the small businesses as advertisers.  When I walked into the local Staples outlet, the manager told me they only advertise with big corporate newspapers, in those incredible words.  Hearing what I knew to be true shocked me, a tough thing to do to a lifelong journalist.

Although Staples pays your kids low pay to press buttons on the cash register and drives out of business the local guy who supports his church and the little league team, The Wall Street Journal recently explained how Staples and Office Max had obtained favorable coverage from the big East Coast corporate papers.

My favorite journalist from history was Ida Tarbell, whose hard-hitting coverage of Standard Oil brought the anti-trust issue into the spotlight.

Teddy Roosevelt, the "Trust Buster,'' broke up turn of the century
monopolies despite cries he was "anti-business." In doing so, he helped create the business climate that gave America the greatest economy in the world.

In today's world, corporations again scorn the monopoly laws and use marketing to make the public believe that the Ida Tarbells and Teddy's are something wicked and evil.

If we had more newspapers like The Pit, we could help stop America's slide back into feudalism. But you have to look beyond the marketing to see the value of the truth.

Frank Hartzell, publisher
The Business to Business Journal
April 13, 1997