Just six weeks after the new town of Greenbelt was opened for occupancy (October 1, 1937) the Greenbelt Journalistic Club formed in order to produce a community newspaper. Two weeks later, on November 24, the first issue appeared. The paper has been published weekly since then--now for almost 82 years.
The paper was called the Greenbelt Cooperator from 1937 into 1954. Then for eight issues the paper was simply called GREENBELT while a new name was being selected perhaps to avoid confusion over the paper's relationship to the Co-op grocery store. Strongly expressed views by community leaders including those of the Co-op led to the store's dropping its advertising. The September 23, 1954, issue was the first published as the Greenbelt News Review.
Through the years, the paper has consisted almost entirely of original content, i.e. articles and photos by the largely volunteer staff and members of the community.
In September 1941, the Cooperator incorporated as a non-profit producers' cooperative, the Greenbelt Cooperative Publishing Association, Inc., under District of Columbia cooperative laws. (There was and still is no comparable cooperative law in Maryland.) The paper remains a cooperative and is a member of the Greenbelt Cooperative Alliance.
From its first issue through August 1938, the Greenbelt Cooperator consisted of 12 or more pages mimeographed onto 8.5 x 11" paper. The staff very much wanted their product to look like a newspaper, thus a newsprint issue was trialed in September 1938 (see editorial, page 2). With the next issue (misdated September 21 on page 1) the staff switched to a less expensive offset process, first in a magazine-style format and later sheets.
Starting with the August 22, 1941 issue, the Prince George's Post began printing the Cooperator on newsprint. A young Herbert Allen, pressman for the Post, began a lifelong career of printing the Cooperator and then the News Review, opening his own shop in Hyattsville after WWII. Since then, the paper has been printed on tabloid-size newsprint, with 5 columns on a page. Allen Printing closed its doors permanently within a year of the departure of their main customer, the News Review.
The mid 1990s brought layout and printing into the computer age. The paper got a bit of flair then, with green ink used on the masthead and a few other places. The first color photos appeared in November 2015 and all photos are now printed in color. The paper has been printed by several different companies since Allen, now by Engle Printing & Publishing of Lancaster, Pa.
Since 2002, the paper has been 'born digital', with News Review staff preparing copy in Word and layout done, first by a contractor using Pagemaker and since June 2015 by an in-house layout team using InDesign.
In July 1966 local real estate developer Charles Bresler filed a $2,000,000 libel suit against the News Review. The suit’s main charge was that the paper had published defamatory remarks about Bresler made by citizens at public sessions of the Greenbelt City Council. The remarks were directed to a proposal of Bresler’s that sought city support for rezoning (for apartments) the forested land that now comprises the city’s Forest Preserve.
In January 1968 a Prince George’s County jury found the remarks libelous and awarded Bresler a $17,500 judgment that was later affirmed by the Maryland Court of Appeals (May 1969). The case was successfully appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which unanimously reversed and vacated the judgment in May 1970, ruling that the News Review was “performing its wholly legitimate function as a community newspaper when it published full reports of these public debates in its news columns.”
A compilation of articles depicting the major events in the libel suit was published in the November 30, 1972 paper.
1. To serve as a nonprofit enterprise.
2. To remain nonpartisan in politics.
3. To remain neutral in religious matters.
4. To print news accurately and regularly.
5. To make its pages an open forum for civic affairs.
6. To develop a staff of volunteer writers.
7. To create a “Good Neighbor” spirit, promote friendship, advance the common good, and develop a “Greenbelt philosophy” of life.
The News Review celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2017, and through 2018 there were observances of other events that happened 80 years ago in Greenbelt.
Continuing in that vein, read about life in Greenbelt 80 years ago, now 1939, in the pages of the Greenbelt Cooperator that have already been scanned and posted on the Library of Congress Chronicling America website.