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The Cooperator
An Unofficial History of the Greenbelt News Review

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page 3 of 7

The results of this cooperation could sometimes be exhausting; a January 1938 letter sent by the secretary of The Cooperator said, "Regret the delay in answering your letter. A lot of correspondence has been neglected due not only to the rush of getting the Cooperator out each week, but also to attending citizens' meetings." A directory of Greenbelt organizations published in October 1938 revealed that The Cooperator had to compete for staff time with such organizations as the School Age Mothers' Club, the Greenbelt Democratic Club, the Greenbelt Health Association, the Cooperative Organizing Committee, and the Greenbelt Citizens Association (not to mention the Junior Citizens Association, formed by the town's children).

Yet The Cooperator remained firmly wedded to the belief that it was not a newspaper run by a small number of citizens for the benefit of the town, but rather a newspaper run by all of the citizens. To a large degree, this belief was bound up in the newspaper's belief in freedom of the press. A newspaper that was run by everyone was less likely to be swayed by special interests and more likely to reflect the town's best interests. So deep was the belief that The Cooperator was the citizens' newspaper that in September 1939 it began to be distributed to every house in town. The Cooperator was meant to be more than a voice in the town; it was meant to be the voice of Greenbelt as a whole, a truly cooperative enterprise.

Yet on July 29, 1954, the newspaper's editor, Harry M. Zubkoff, announced an important change at The Cooperator. "There are a number of 'Cooperators' published throughout the country," he said, "at least one of which is circulated in Greenbelt and this has added an element of confusion to some of our newer residents. Without exception, these 'Cooperators' are closely identified with the cooperative movement or with scientific cooperative organizations. We do not have this feeling of close kinship. It is true, of course, that the paper is published by the Greenbelt Cooperative Publishing Association, Inc., and that, in fact, we are a cooperative organization. But this means only that we are a newspaper which is published as a cooperative venture."

What had happened? To a certain extent, the decision to change the newspaper's name was due to the particular beliefs of the newspaper's editor. Yet it was also a sign of changing beliefs in the nation as a whole. The Great Depression was long over; Communism was an increasing threat, and the United States government had lost interest in cooperative experiments. Greenbelt was sold in the early 1950s; most of its buildings and land were bought by its citizens, who promptly formed a housing cooperative, but the golden age of American cooperatives was over. Cooperatives would continue to operate in Greenbelt, but no longer would they be aggressively promoted in the community, and the pages of the Greenbelt News Review (as it was now called) would reflect this change.


1950s "Citizens' Meeting"

Much of the Greenbelt News Review's success is due to the strong-minded editors it has attracted over the years. This anecdote by Harry Zubkoff, who served as editor four times during the 1950s and early 1960s, shows the haphazard manner in which the newspaper's editors have been recruited.

. . . the first Tuesday night I came down to the [Cooperator] office I discovered that nobody but nobody had showed up. Naturally, this made feel a little insecure, so I telephoned the [editor]. She said, "Gee, I wish I could help you but, ha ha. I'm going out."

So I worked till 3 a.m. Wednesday night again I worked till 3 a.m. Thursday the paper came out. Great! Thursday night I got a call from the printer that started off like this: "Well, Zubkoff, I understand you're the new editor. Congratulations! When are you going to pay the thousand dollars you owe me?"

[Recounted to Dorothy Sucher in "The Name is Familiar," Greenbelt News Review (December 7, 1950).]



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