An Homage:  Report on Credit Unions

An independent press is essential for democratic governance, whatever the scope or responsibility of an organization or political entity.

Report on Credit Unions was in its twenty-fifth year in 1982.  The editors and contributors to the monthly printed publication were a who’s who within credit unions.

The publication’s founder was Rudolph Modley who “was born in Austria and earned a Doctor of Law degree at the University of Vienna. He came to this country in 1930 and in 1937 published the first of several hooks, “How to Use Pictorial Statistics.” In 1940 he was the coauthor of a study of the American system, with Thomas R. Carskadon, entitled “U.S.A.: Measure of a Nation.”

As described in his New York Times obituary: “Mr. Modley was also interested in the credit‐union movement and in 1957 founded the monthly publication “Report on Credit Unions.”

The staff and contributors listed on the January 1982 masthead (vol. XXI no. 1) were Larry Blanchard, editor; Frank Wielga and Jo Ann Ewalt, assistant editors.  The contributors J. Deane Gannon (former Administrator, Bureau of Credit Unions), Mandy Hellie, League President,  Kenneth Marin (former CUNA Chair) and Harold Black, one of the first three members of the NCUA board.  All had senior positions in the movement.

The News In January 1982

The lead story was the departure of Larry Connell from the NCUA board to become president and ceo of Washington Mutual Savings Bank, a $2.3 billion thrift based in Seattle.  The story quotes Connell’s farewell comments, “I’ll be back” and Ed Callahan who said, “Larry had done great things with this agency during his tenure.  . . he will be sorely missed.”

The six-page newsletter announced the appointment of former NCUA Board member Harold Black as an associate editor.   In his first “commentary” he wrote why he opposed Senator Garn’s bill (S. 1721)  which would have combined the FDIC, FSLIC and NCUSIF into a single fund.  Many of his points are still relevant today as the current NCUA chair seeks to convert the NCUSIF to be more FDIC-like.

This first edition of 1982 included articles on the upcoming speakers for the CUNA and NAFCU governmental affairs conferences, updates on insurance for IRA accounts, NCUA’s “dramatic deregulation concept,”  CUNA’s capitalization study, the accounting practice of ICU’s two common trust investments, how credit union owned data processor USERS “outranked the competition,” and a full page of individual credit union updates, From the Grass Roots.

The Report’s Purpose

As stated in the Harold Black appointment, “the Report has adhered to a strict policy of independent coverage, focusing on operational, legal, economic and general news for credit union volunteers and professionals. Its editors, assistant and associate editors are all drawn from the credit union community.”

The editorial standard in the Report helped to spawn an era of industry focused newsletters included CUIS (Credit Union Information Service) weekly mailed updates from the trade associations and leagues and the occasional private newsletter.

The quality of writing influenced these other publications including the monthly Credit Union Magazine and later iterations such as Callahan’s Credit Union Report.

The Report stands out for its comprehensiveness, longevity and singular focus on the industry.   NCUA upgraded its own publications creating NCUA News as a monthly.

The NCUA Chair and senior staff would hold public press conferences after each board meeting to talk with reporters.  Topics were open ended.  For example in July 1982: how would the Agency respond to the closing of Penn Square Bank and the losses credit unions might have on CD’s over the $100,000 insurance coverage?

The Impact of Quality

The Report set the standard for relevant, in depth factual analysis and commentary for the credit union community.  Its writers knew their subject matter.  They had access to senior leadership when reporting on sensitive topics such as the accounting for ICU funds.

The Report is an excellent, high level chronology of key events and personalities on the credit union stage in each edition.  Its success was due to the quality of its staff. It is a tribute to Larry Blanchard who maintained this approach during his tenure.

Ultimately more colorful, more timely (weekly) and ad-supported entrants, Credit Union Times and Credit Union News, pushed the monthly subscription model off center stage.

But this example of dedicated focused journalism and independent reporting is still the standard even in today’s digital era.   The Report raised all credit union coverage to a higher level of excellence while becoming  the “go to” source for capturing the first draft of the movement’s history.

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