A response to 'Today Tonight'
Cornerstone Community reacts to TV Smear Campaign
24 March 2005
Cornerstone Community has hit out at a story aired on Channel 7's Today/Tonight regarding their alleged "tax free status". The story made mention of Dubbo business Pizza Runners, owned and operated by Cornerstone Community, alleging that Cornerstone "used its tax-free status to run a chain of pizza parlours in direct competition with other fast food businesses."
Cornerstone's Director of Business and Finance, Mr Andrew Grant, contacted local media outlets in an attempt to set the record straight. He mentioned that no-one from the program had asked any questions of Cornerstone. This directly contradicts the program's assertion that Cornerstone had been asked to provide a spokesperson to appear on the show but that the offer had been declined.
"I find it astounding that they can make allegations about our organisation in a story without once getting in contact with us to check their facts."
"For instance, we don't own a Laundromat as alleged in the program. They also made an assumption that the businesses are operated for profit and they did not check whether this is even allowable in our constitution as a not-for-profit organisation."
Mr Grant went on to detail what a business like Pizza Runners is trying to achieve in Dubbo. It is a model that is possibly unique in this country, but has quantifiable results and benefits to the city.
"Our businesses are operated for the sole purpose of training voluntary youth workers who commit themselves to a minimum of one year working in rural towns throughout Australia as a way of giving something back to the community. The businesses are also used as places of learning and workplace training for these people."
"What this really means is that, for example, our pizza shop in Dubbo operates at a significant disadvantage to our large multi-national competitors. Where their aim is to make significant profit, with much of that leaving Australian shores or invested for private gain, any excess money from Pizza Runners is used at our Training Centre in Dubbo to run their training program."
"Our students from the Training Centre also work in the business because we see workplace training as an integral process of gaining life skills. Running our own business allows us to manage their training, allow for their failings and de-brief them where required. None of this generally proves "profitable" in terms of dollars and cents, but does make a huge difference to their development as people."
"Even the tips given to our counter and delivery staff are voluntarily given by our staff and regularly sent over to a Training Centre that Cornerstone is operating in the needy African country of Ghana - an extension of our ministry."
He went on to mention that the results of the activities of Pizza Runners are visible and quantifiable. Currently Cornerstone has four teams of voluntary youth workers placed in Dubbo, containing more than twenty people that have made a minimum one year commitment to be involved in the lives of Dubbo's youth as mentors.
"None of our competitors in the pizza industry can show the people of Dubbo 20 youth workers having a large impact in this town. (One example is running a "Shine" program with residents of Apollo House)."
"The next time people are deciding where they will buy their pizza from they would do well to remember which shop is going to give the most of their money back into the community in which they live. That extends from the work our people are doing in Dubbo and beyond, to the fact that we source much of our fresh product from local businesses rather than have it arrive in the back of a refrigerated truck from a bulk-buying warehouse operated by a national or international franchise."
Mr Grant concluded by musing about metropolitan television stations misrepresenting facts to slur his organisation rather than covering the work Cornerstone is doing in rural Australia.
"The facts get in the way of a good story don't they? Perhaps that is why they did not bother to check them."
"Why did Today/Tonight not do a story on the wonderful work that is being carried out in rural communities by these heroic young people who give up two years, and often more, of their lives to get their own lives straight and then help others do the same?"
"Where were their cameras when we were forced to close our team of voluntary workers in Gulgong at the end of last year? Why weren't they interviewing the mayor, the school principals and townsfolk about what this young group of twenty year olds had achieved in their town at absolutely no cost to the community or the public purse?"
"Why weren't their cameras zooming in on teenage boys in tears as they said goodbye to these voluntary youth workers who had become their friends and mentors, or recording mothers pleading with us to keep the team in Gulgong?"
"We have invitations from twelve towns around the country to put a team of people like this in their community. These poorly researched stories do nothing to help us recruit the people that we need to make this possible - to put people into towns and put our shoulder to the wheel by resisting the sense of hopelessness that seems to be growing amongst the youth of Australia's bush."
Of course, this is not the first example of questionable standards in reporting by Today Tonight. Extensive information on many instances is available on the web athttp://www.fijibure.com/news/todaytonight.htm
The Cornerstone Community was established 25 years ago with the vision of giving practical expression to, and teaching in, the Christian faith as a 'whole of life' experience. It currently operates Training Centres in Dubbo, Broken Hill and Canowindra. This year 10 mission teams are placed in five States across Australia.
A photo opportunity of Andrew Grant or some of Cornerstone's voluntary youth workers can be arranged in front of the Pizza Runners store on Cobra Street.
For more information contact:
106R Bunglegumbie Road
Dubbo NSW 2830
Postal: PO Box 1151 Dubbo NSW 2830
Phone: (02) 6884 0402
fax: (02) 6881 6450