October 2, 2011
The late Herbert Marcuse, author of One Dimensional Man, and Noam Chomsky, America’s most cited scholar, both have pointed out the advantage of controlling news through private corporate conglomerates. In 1947, in his seminal book Inside USA, John Gunther called the Wolfe family of Columbus perhaps America’s most ruthless media monopoly.
Last week, the Wolfe family’s closely held private corporation, the Dispatch Printing Company, was at it again. The Dispatch bought up the last independent weekly newspapers in Columbus, owned by American Community Newspapers. They picked up the Suburban News Publication (SNP) chain of 22 local community weeklies; The Other Paper, a weekly entertainment and commentary newspaper; Columbus Monthly, the only serious magazine in the capital; and a dozen other specialty magazines including Columbus CEO and Columbus Bride. John F. Wolfe, the CEO of the Dispatch Printing Company, told Business First that, “Putting all of these titles under one roof opens up enormous and exciting possibilities for local readers.”
The Dispatch bought Columbus Alive in 2006, which was once the premier investigative weekly in the state of Ohio from 1997-2002. The paper never really recovered from the shock of 9/11 and increasingly moved away from muck-raking journalism and progressive social commentary to incredibly mundane middle-of-the-road political discourse.
Once acquired by the Dispatch, moderate discourse disappeared entirely as the paper pursued pay-to-play features to entice bar, restaurant and concert ads. There’s a massive vacuum in the capital city with the Wolfe’s Columbus Dispatch not only serving as the daily monopoly, but now its control of the Alive and The Other Paper dominates nearly all news and ad revenue in Columbus.
Democracy can only be served with more than one point of view. The Dispatch family has not endorsed a Democrat for President since Woodrow Wilson in 1916. The Wolfes, of German ancestry, exposed pro-German sentiments during World War I. On a local level, they tend to endorse Democrats they know are locks to win elections. But, the Dispatch’s clear bias is towards conservative ideology and politicians who serve their personal economic interests. Thus, their recent stunningly biased support for their longtime fair-haired boy Governor Kasich and their support for Senate Bill 5, will be their model for the former Democratic-leaning The Other Paper.
If The Other Paper survives.
The Other Paper, SNP and Columbus Monthly were originally owned by Max Brown’s CM Media, a media chain that began in 1975. Brown, an administrator under Ohio’s former Democratic Governor John Gilligan, dreamed of countering the influence of the Big Bad Wolfe family with his own media empire. He was never able to add the crown jewel, which would have been the return of a daily newspaper to provide a different perspective than the Dispatch.
The Dispatch destroyed their only daily competitor, the Columbus Citizen-Journal, at the end of 1985. The Dispatch simply failed to renew a joint operating agreement with the Citizen-Journal, which lacked its own printing facilities.
Brown’s vision of challenging the Wolfes centered around his ability to do his own printing with CM Printing. This ended when he sold CM Media and his printing presses to American Community Newspapers in 2007. In fact, CM Printing and later American Community Newspapers printed the paper I edit, the Columbus Free Press.
The Dispatch distinguished itself in the 1990s by covering up the blatant corruption of the Voinovich administration, including Governor Voinovich’s brother Paul’s ties to organized crime. They also purposely acted as apologists allowing George Bush and Karl Rove’s theft of Ohio’s 2004 presidential election. The freepress.org will continue to report the real news in the capital The Dispatch’s power on paper is greater than ever. But, the pedestrian and propagandistic nature of their boring publications should serve to do them in.
With the internet at our disposal, we should do everything possible to boycott and discredit what remains the most ruthless media monopoly in America.
If you would like to see the Columbus Free Press published as a quarterly or monthly publication again, remember that we are a charitable 501(c)(3) and you can make your donation to us on our online store at freepress.org.
Bob Fitrakis is the Editor of the Free Press and freepress.org and former investigative reporter for the Columbus Guardian and award-winning investigative journalist for Columbus Alive, where he authored a column “Bob Bites Back.”