Screen shot of white man's head and the words John K. Hartman Columnist Columbus Free Press on the phone Gas Tax Pushback

A newspaper reporter friend told me that his paper's coverage policies were determined by the editor's interests rather than the readers' interests.

That could be a reason why newspapers are losing audience these days.

Dispatch editor Alan Miller demonstrated this quirk of leadership in the April 14 edition when he wrote about his father's restoration of a barn in Holmes County and included a picture.

That's 85 miles northeast of Columbus and way out of the Dispatch coverage area.

No other Dispatch journalist could have done it. Only the editor.

I wonder if it signals that Miller is nearing retirement. After four years of cost-cutting and dancing to the GateHouse corporate tune, Miller may be ready for the family farm, so to speak.

Spectrum News 1 Quotes Yours Truly, Columbus Free Press

The mainstream media in Columbus only interview and quote the usual political sources in central Ohio. I am referring to the Dispatch, TV channels 4, 6/28 and 10, and radio stations WTVN AM and WOSU FM. Coverage of local news is bland, mostly voice-overs of news releases. Tough questions and investigative reporting about government and politics are unusual. The powerful are rarely challenged.

When I brought up in my online column last month that Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Legislature were shoving a gas tax increase down the throats of Ohioans and should put it up for a statewide vote, the "Big 7" mainstream media ignored it.

But there is a new media player in town, Spectrum News 1. Its political reporter Molly Martinez recognized the newsworthiness of my perspective. She confronted the governor and he tap-danced his way to a non-answer.

Reporter Martinez put it on the air April 9 for the million or so Spectrum cable subscribers in Ohio. She quoted yours truly and the governor in the segment and flashed  "John K. Hartman Columnist Columbus Free Press" on the screen. 

Indians Not Really Missing From Columbus Radios

The Dispatch swung and missed when it tried to cover the dropping of Cleveland Indians radio broadcasts by 105.7 FM when it quit sports talk for rock classics a few weeks ago. The games were moved to 93.3 FM's limited access HD channel.

It was like you can't listen to the Tribe any more, Columbus.

Not really.

First, the games remain on 92.9 and 1550 AM on WDLR radio in Delaware that covers northern and central Franklin County.

Second, 1100 AM WTAM Cleveland carries the games and can be heard throughout the county, though with static at times.

Third, stations in Bellefontaine, Marion, and Mount Vernon carry the games and can be heard in parts of Franklin County,

And fourth, satellite radio SiriusXM carries all Tribe games and about 10 percent of local residents subscribe.

Sometimes the Dispatch is a little too Columbus-centric for its own good.

Duplicate NPR Programs Impair Public Radio Mission

A 10-year resident of central Ohio, I'm still trying to figure out why the two public radio stations with powerful signals are running NPR news and public affairs programming simultaneously.

WOSU-FM injects some semblance of local news coverage -- if reading press releases qualifies as reporting -- around the national NPR news feed.

WCBE-FM mostly runs the NPR feed.

Couldn't one of them program jazz?

It looks like economics may bring about change, and, hopefully, the end of NPR duplication.

WCBE, owned by the Columbus board of education, has amassed a nearly $1 million dollar debt. The board of ed is not rolling in money and cannot afford to bail the station out. It probably will have to sell.

WOSU-FM, part of the Ohio State University media colossus that includes WOSU-TV, WOSA-FM classical radio, and several radio translators around the state, is rolling in dough and could buy WCBE with pin money.

That would be a shame because WCBE is a free spirit with a diverse broadcasting portfolio while the WOSU family serves up largely inoffensive pabulum.

Wonder Why Your Kid Can't Get Into OSU

While I am picking on OSU, ever wonder why your kid could not get admitted to the main campus?

It might have to do with the nearly 7,000 international students, more than 4,000 of whom are Chinese, who attend.

International students pay a higher tuition rate than in-state students. That makes them money in the OSU bank, so to speak.

But is it fair that they are taking the spots of Ohio's sons and daughters?


  • The Dispatch finally took AG Dave Yost to the woodshed by criticizing him for issuing a selective press release to firearms folks, not the press. In a bid to regain good graces, Yost endorsed a federal measure to prop up newspapers. The Dispatch's fawning coverage returned.
  • Credit the Dispatch for calling out its ownership. A full page article described GateHouse as aggressive cost-cutters that reduce quality and sometimes close papers.

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