The obvious question is, “so why in the hell would you start an independent print newspaper business – jumping into a news industry in rapid decline?”

 Unfortunately, our best answer is “well, somebody has to do it!” And to borrow from Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign slogan, we believe an independent newspaper is needed in Columbus “now, more than ever.”

Why? Because every big city needs a free and independent weekly press – a serious and politically astute newspaper that is fun, funny and fundamental to its healthy democracy. And we don’t have one. And we really are a big city.

So let’s call it our civic duty – our expression of our love for Columbus – to bring The Columbus Free Press to the people. And as for a business model … well, let’s just say that we are the kind of people who buck the trends, rage against the machine, spit into the wind (well, actually just once – and we won’t do that again) … and, the truth of the matter is, we think we’re smarter than every other Columbus independent weekly publisher that ever has been and that we can make the numbers work.

And besides, why should The Dispatch have all the fun? Digging up truth is fun (and truth can be stranger than fiction)! Two years ago, who would’ve thunk the Columbus City School bosses themselves would get caught cheating on their report card? The irony of that! – isn’t it funny? (I mean, funny in a violating-the-public-trust-while-you-wreck-what-was-left-of-the-school-system-after-half-the-kids-already-deserted-you-then-you-treat -the-citizens-who-pay-your-salaries-like-fools-through-your-bald-faced-denials-as-you-waste-our-hard-earned-tax-dollars-and-destroy-our-children’s-futures-kind-of-way funny.) Hah!

We should have broken that story – heck, we’re the ones whose tips led the state Auditor to investigate the rampant fraud in Columbus City Schools’ tutoring program a full six months before the Dispatch found out about the school data scrubbing scandal. And that is proof positive of the most important fact: we’re the ones whose website has said “speak truth to power” since before Al Gore invented the Internet.  

Ground breaking investigative journalism is what those studs and studettes at The Free Press have done for 43 years – at the state, national and international levels. At the state level The Free Press broke the story about former Governor Voinovich’s mob connected brother that landed brother Paul in prison … at the national level The Free Press was the only newspaper to have a reporter from inside Wounded Knee – and decades later we broke the story about the Diebold voting machines and the rigging of the 2004 elections … and at the international level The Free Press was the first Western press to break the Killing Fields of Cambodia story back in 1976 for God’s sake. We apologize for not yet being in print to bring you the data-scrubbing story (although was the first media outlet to break the story, we were not publishing a regular printed version at the time). Never again!

Why Columbus? Because we live here. Why now? Because the convergence of the near-monopolization of mass media and political power is truly frightening for those of us who love this city and believe in democracy.  

Democracy means the people rule. But here, those who control information rule, and we don’t like that. When the Dispatch Media Group bought American Community Newspapers’ (formerly CM Media/Suburban News Publications) local portfolio in 2011, giving it near-Orwellian corporate control over what we read and hear, the Dispatch said:

 “The acquisition will clearly benefit subscribers and readers as reporters/writers now have increased resources and outlets to tell the most compelling and interesting stories in our communities. Editorial convergence has been a hallmark of Dispatch Printing Co. publications, and the added resources will improve all of the print products and their ability to deliver more high-quality and engaging hard news, investigative, feature and human interest stories.”

Many of us read that to mean “now we will tell you what we want you to know, in the same manner, and across all of our formats.” That’s scary stuff. But this is not about bashing the Dispatch. There will be plenty of time for that later.
And now is “later.”

Then the Dispatch helped turn people of Columbus into its “Sugar Daddy,” by convincing City government to send public dollars to fund the bailout of Nationwide Arena (a money-losing private sector business venture whose losses have now been pawned off on the public by the Dispatch and its partners). And the City itself has engaged in its own brand of informational dictatorship by shutting down the community’s public access television station while pumping up its own TV station (CTV-3).

So we see two informational dictators in bed together, and we don’t like it. By providing alternatives to big corporate-controlled news, the 24/7/365 political propaganda of CTV-3 and the flood of press releases that suggest Columbus City Council is in session and that fact matters, we believe that Columbus will read us and that advertisers will pay to get their messages in front of those well-informed minds.

The people of Columbus – all the people of Columbus -- are “our people.” We’re open-minded and inclusive. Want proof?  -- we even love the 47 percent of you who don’t take personal responsibility for your own lives.  

We want to be your paper: the people’s paper. We want to ask the questions you want to ask, get the answers that you want to get, give you the information you want to lead your best lives … and we want to have a little fun together doing that. It’s our little contribution to democracy and freedom. Will you join us on this ride?