Looking Back Shows You Got To Read It Here First

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It's that time of the year again when one reviews all that they've done during the year. In the case of this column and this newspaper, that would be quite a lot.

2004 was another banner year for The Credit Union Journal. If you didn't read us first, then you waited, sometimes weeks, to get the most important news in the credit union movement.

Or you didn't read it at all.

The year began with our coverage of the controversy over the failed attempt by Columbia Credit Union in Vancouver, Wash., to convert to a mutual savings bank, and its aftermath, which eventually threatened the board of directors and resulted in the replacement of several of its members. Though we broke the story in the final days of 2003, the coverage dominated the first four months of this year. We were gratified that our competition finally decided to cover the story three weeks after we did (you can look it up), helping to make it the year's most important story.

Our coverage extended to the millions of dollars in windfall stock profits and bonuses accrued to executives at other credit unions that have succeeded in converting to mutual thrift and then to a publicly owned corporation. Once again, it took our competition several weeks to catch on to the importance of this story (you can look it up, as well), but The Credit Union Journal was proud to bring our readers this important perspective on the enrichment opportunities credit union conversions offer.

Throughout the year The Credit Union Journal was also the first, and often the only, credit union publication to cover and explain important trends and stories affecting the CU community.

Among them were the accounting scandals plaguing secondary mortgage market giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and what affect they may have on credit unions. The Credit Union Journal is the only credit union publication to cover the financial reporting of the two mortgage giants and to explain the shortfalls of their reporting systems, and to cover the resulting legislative battles regarding the oversight over these two important credit union partners.

We continue to be the only publication to cover the privatization of student loan giant Sallie Mae and what it means for credit union participation in the student loan market. The Sallie Mae story will also become increasingly important in the debate over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as some industry opponents would like to see a full privatization of the mortgage giants. We will continue to bring you these important stories.

The Credit Union Journal was the first to report the emerging trend among some credit unions to charter their own non-profit foundations and the ramifications of this trend. As many as a dozen credit unions have created their own foundations over the past year.

We were also the only credit union publication to cover the fall of credit union savings rates to all-time lows and how this has effected credit union finances, and members.

The Credit Union Journal was also the first credit union publication to cover the unprecedented effort by workers at CUNA Mutual Group to split off from their union (look it up).

Along the way The Credit Union Journal broke many other important stories, like the massive theft of credit union credit card data from BJ Wholesalers; the creation by North Carolina State Employees CU of the largest education endowment by a credit union; the attempted conversion of Lake Michigan CU to bank (the vote is pending on what would be the biggest credit union conversion ever), or the review by the IRS of the tax status of corporate CUs.

If you don't believe me, you can look it up.

Other stories just weren't even covered by our competition. Like the important state Supreme Court challenge in Virginia on community chartering rules. Or the important court challenge in Massachusetts of the ability of a credit union to convert to mutual savings bank.

The Credit Union Journal was also the only publication to report regularly on the financial condition of all of our publicly owned credit union partners and vendors. That's because we think it's important that credit union readers understand whether a prospective partner is going to be around in three or four years down the road or that diminishing finances might make a long-term contract dangerous.

We also continue to be the only credit union publication to cover the crime and police blotter. That's because readers can learn how to protect their own credit unions or to avoid scams, like identity theft or check counterfeiting, by seeing how another credit union was affected.

The Credit Union Journal also provided the most comprehensive coverage of credit unions' involvement in the congressional elections and what it means for credit unions. And this year, The Credit Union Journal was the only credit union publication to attend and cover the two political parties' conventions, giving us the opportunity to showcase the political coming-out of the CU lobbies on a national stage.

We hope to be as successful in 2005. Until then, you can look it up. And, as always, reader input is invited to eroberts cujournal.com.

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