Editorial: Why We Publish the People’s PressPosted: March 24, 2017
Over six years ago a number of almost like minded people held a series of meetings that led to the decision to start a community newspaper which came to be called the People’s Press. It was admittedly going to be a tough decision to carry out. Researching material, writing articles about local happenings, editing, layout, printing, financing and then distributing 2,500 copies of the paper every two-three months was going to be a very time consuming task for volunteers.
Reason for the People’s Press.
We wanted a community voice that was very different from that of the Press & Sun-Bulletin. The Press, a Gannett owned operation has held a virtual monopoly on the daily news in this community since 1971 when the Gannett chain bought the Sun-Bulletin, a paper founded in 1822. From 1971 until 1985 Gannett operated the Sun Bulletin, a morning paper, and the Press, an evening paper, as supposedly separate papers. Gannett made a pledge that the “personality and individuality of the Sun-Bulletin will be preserved.” With the purchase of the Sun about 30% of the staff was laid off. In 1985 all pretense of having separate papers was ended and the Sun Bulletin was combined with the Press. The reason for combining the papers was “market reality rules.” In 1967 Gannett put its stock up for sale on Wall St. and profit became openly the motive for operating the newspaper.
A Public Newspaper Should Belong to the People
Gannett is a corporation which can be bought like any other corporation. In 1938 A.R. Graustein, President of the International Paper and Power Co., testified before a Senate Committee that his company had secretly financed the expansion of the Gannett chain. The chair of the Senate committee said that this financing was an attempt to get control of the generation and distribution of electrical energy. The Gannett chain became a strong proponent of the private power companies and an even stronger opponent of public ownership. Through such methods Gannett became the largest newspaper chain in the U.S.
Gannett’s monopoly in the Southern Tier is similar to the Gannett’s monopoly in all areas where the Gannett papers are printed. There are other examples in the country where Gannett bought out rival papers, like the Sun-Bulletin, and eliminated them to abolish competition. With a monopoly, Gannett can determine rates for subscriptions, advertisement, obituaries, and which community groups and politicians get featured and which ones don’t. They can “overlook” the fact that they have dipped into the public till, getting millions in tax write offs while eliminating local jobs, then editorializing about tax breaks that hurt the public.
Because there is no competition, the Press & Sun-Bulletin is a shell of a newspaper, but it is profitable. Recent reports from an all but empty newsroom put the number of reporters at 5 where once there were 30. The skilled, experienced reporters who knew the community have been put out to pasture. Statements from select public officials and the reprinting of police reports fill the paper along with more than 50% ads. There is a full page called Money and another full page called America’s Markets, but not a labor page. Does the Press understand that 83% of the all stock is owned by 10% of the population? Labor gets some notice only if there is a strike or threatened job action. The workers who have built the wealth of the community are not noticed as workers. A new business to the community will get headlines about the number of possible jobs created but no mention of the hourly rate paid. Did you know that the average hourly wages in Broome County are among the lowest in the nation? Poverty wages do not get noticed, nor does the increase in poverty, but the stock market is well covered.
As volunteers with the People’s Press we have tried for six years to provide something other than a corporate voice. We sincerely thank all of the people who have supported this effort with their articles, information and donations. We encourage your participation in the People’s Press at whatever level you can.