Words Columbus Media Insider with the M looking like broken glass

Four years ago, the editors of the Columbus Free Press gave me the chance to write a monthly column about the local media as the Columbus Media Insider. Over time, the editors let me write broadly about media and politics.

I will always be grateful. Nearly every newspaper journalist yearns to be a columnist.

Thank you, Robert Fitrakis and Suzanne Patzer, for making my dream come true.

And thank you, dear readers, even those of you at the Columbus Dispatch.

The sale of the Dispatch by the Wolfe family to GateHouse Newspapers led to the launch of my column in July 2015.

I noted in my first column that chain newspaper ownership results in major staff cuts. Around Labor Day, 2015, dozens of heads rolled. Today there are about half as many journalists putting out the newspaper as before.

The paper's coverage has shrunk and the errors have increased as much of the design and editing has been shifted to a hub in Texas.

All that said, the Dispatch has not been carved up as badly as have many taken-over newspapers. The new owners realized that the Dispatch's readers are better educated and more discerning that most other newspapers' and would bolt if the paper were gutted.

In that first column, I made a number of predications. Some right and some wrong.

I predicted that departing editor and Wolfe propagandist Ben Marrison would become a PR hack, as he has for Attorney General David Yost. I predicted that right-wing editorial page editor Glenn Sheller would soon depart. He has.

I ventured correctly that then Gov. John Kasich would stop receiving the kid gloves treatment.

I accurately speculated that President Barack Obama would no longer be a Dispatch punching bag and that the Dispatch's once proudly GOP editorial page would pivot to the middle if not toward the Democratic Party as Columbus and Franklin County have turned solidly blue.

Swung and missed at the following prognostications:

1. The paper would drop its sub-tabloid size and return to broadsheet.

2. Favoritism of Wolfe-owned Channel 10 as the expense of 4, 6 and 28 would end.

3. Fawning coverage of Les Wexner and the Columbus elite would end.

4. Excessively negative coverage of the Columbus Public Schools would cease.

5. Slobbering coverage of OSU athletics would be terminated.

I did get a big one right as I offered that the Wolfe family would sell Channel 10, its Indianapolis TV station and WBNS AM and FM radio for upwards of $500 million. The stations were sold last month to TEGNA for even more, $535 million.

Alive Is Dead In Print; Vindicator Is Not Far Behind

Alive, the free weekly entertainment tabloid published by the Dispatch, is ending print publication July 3. It will continue online, the publisher said.

A decade ago Columbus had a free newspaper called The Other Paper. It was full of nasty commentary about the power brokers and media in the community and also published entertainment news.

When the Dispatch purchased its parent company, The Other Paper was folded into Alive and the pithy stuff was removed. Without the gossip and nasties about the luminaries in town, readers lost interest and, hence, another print publication bit the dust.

Fortunately, readers have the Columbus Free Press, in print and online, to hold the powerful accountable and to "go there" on topics that the Dispatch and mainstream TV and radio stations in town refuse to cover.

Print publications across America are suffering from declining advertising and declining circulation/readership and some are going out of business.

A major Ohio newspaper, the Youngstown Vindicator, has announced that it is closing in two months.

Keep courageous journalism alive in Columbus by supporting the Columbus Free Press through a monthly donation, by patronizing its advertisers, by buying ads, and by encouraging others to buy ads and make donations.

For the first 10 readers who make a donation of $100 or more via, I will give you free autographed copies of my two books about journalism.


  • Once and future OSU football coach Urban Meyer is opening a restaurant in Dublin's Bridge Park. OSU trademarked his name in 2015. According to published reports, Meyer and OSU will share profits from his name's commercial usage. Again, I ask the mainstream media in Columbus to sic an investigative reporter to discover the status of Meyer's contract with OSU as ex-coach and restaurateur.
  • Just when Trumpites thought it was safe to read the Dispatch, the paper editorialized June 30 that President Trump should not be re-elected. "Donald Trump is unfit for the job," the editorial proclaimed. Yet the headline was watered down, saying innocuously "What will decide the 2020 campaign for president?"
  • As the gas tax and entertainment tax take hold, is the dictum "no tax hikes without a vote of the people" too hard for our leaders to grasp?

(Send your comments and suggestions to John K. Hartman,

(ColumbusMediaInsider, copyright, 2019, John K. Hartman, All Rights Reserved

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