Wendell Potter, former VP-corporate communications at Cigna and author of the muckraking “Deadly Spin” exposé, has launched Tarbell, which is named after pioneer investigative journalist Ida Tarbell, as a nonprofit news source dedicated to outing the power that special interests have over the average American.
His goal is to upend the media landscape where he says “only the well-heeled elite have access to important news and information.”
Potter has initiated a crowdfunding drive at www.tarbell.org/donate in order to get Philadelphia-based Tarbell off the ground. He intends for reader input to go past financial support. Members will be asked for story ideas and to provide feedback on what they read.
Potter was moved to start up Tarbell as a result of several trends. In addition to the continuing drop in the number of reporters and editors who are employed by media outlets, he notes a similar decline in the number, and diversity, of those who own those outlets. “Media ownership has become concentrated in the hands of just six investor-owned companies,” he said, and that has led to an investor-driven, bottom-line–oriented industry that is unwilling to spend the money required for investigative reporting, and is afraid of publishing anything that may offend advertisers. Tarbell will not accept advertising.
Potter has a history of uncovering information that others have overlooked. His books include Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans and Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About it.
Tarbell intends to tackle such subjects as how soda companies use deceptive messaging to defeat ideas they oppose and the ways drug companies shape the debate about high drug costs.
It will start publishing stories to members by the end of this year, and will launch a website and make its journalism public in the first quarter of 2018. For more information, go to www.tarbell.org.