In 1972 Tom Martino began his media career working for the Catskill Daily Mail and the Green County News in upstate New York. He staffed the one-man Coxsackie Bureau, named for the town and area it served. It was there that he began one of the first consumer action columns in the country. An action column was like “letters to the editor” where readers wrote in with consumer problems, questions and complaints. The newspaper columnist would solve the problem, answer the question or investigate the complaint and publish it.
Here is how Tom began his Action Column:
While working at the Catskill Daily Mail and Green County News, Tom wanted to get a new car so he decided to sell his old one. The buyer was a young woman who agreed to make monthly payments to him. Shortly after getting the car, she stopped making payments. Tom took the girl to small claims court. The girl made the argument that she was a minor when she signed the contract so it was null and void. But Tom had a counter-argument. He found caselaw where minors were held to contracts under certain circumstances. Tom claimed this contract fell under those circumstances. He argued that because she made the purchase during her 18th year (just prior to turning 18) and she did not cancel it within 5 days of turning 18, she affirmed it. The judge ruled in his favor. Tom was so elated with his court victory that he wrote about it in his newspaper. After the story was published readers started writing to Tom with similar stories and consumer problems. The res, as they say, is history!