News paper stands

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In August of 2008, the cause of regulating news paper stands in Lexington, Kentucky was championed by Lexington Fayette Urban County Government Council Member Dick DeCamp. The move sparked a heated debate between the supporters of the plan and virtually all newspaper publishers in the city-one was local news paper Ace Weekly, which started a 'You Don't Know Dick' campaign to fight the proposal. DeCamp had previously been looking to regulate newspaper racks for around 4 years, when he was eating lunch at a cafe and saw a row of visually unappealing news paper racks;he later stated “One of the biggest eyesores, in my estimation and in many people's estimation, has been the indiscriminate placing of newspaper racks..."

After being drafted, the proposed ordinance would not only charge a permit fee of $200 dollars per year to paper publishers, but would also charge $25 dollars per rack, and $25 dollar installation fee. The fees from the city do not include the cost of the metal racks that the publishers would have to pay. The proposed news racks were to be uniform and made of metal due to current racks being “...a very ugly scar in our downtown when you come up on these rainbows of colors, shapes and sizes...” according to Councilman Jay McChord. There were also to be 25 proposed districts in the city that news paper racks could be stationed.

The measure was tabled by council on August 20th of 2008, publishers were given a small amount of time to 'voluntarily' come up with a solution that would be self regulated by themselves[1].

While there is no doubt that people do not want to see 'unsightly' news paper racks in a city, should it really be the roll of government to tell publishers how they should go about selling and marketing their products?


Economic Impact

Provided that the proposal would have passed, publishers could have faced additional costs of up to $13,950 if they had news paper racks installed in all 25 proposed zones.

Due to an increase in the cost of doing business for publishers (an industry already being hurt by the ever increasing use of the internet) the additional cost would have to ultimately be passed along to the consumers of their products: readers, who may be too poor to be able to afford to get their news from cable TV or the internet; and local businesses that advertise in the paper.

These costs would certainly hurt the prospects of any upstart publication from developing into an important community news source.


Free Speech

The Supreme Court of the United States has always defended freedom of expression and the cause of journalistic independence; causes, which are not dissimilar to the proposed code change. Effectively, the Code implies that a paper can say what they want on city property; provided that they pay an excessive amount and package their papers in a way that the Council likes. This is in stark contrast to a person standing on the sidewalk passing out pamphlets.


Marketing

It is well known that the branding of the Lexington Herald-Leader is it's traditional white lettering on a dark blue background, which presently helps preemptive local news source distinguish itself from other unrelated publications such as Smiley Pete's Business Lexington or the Chaser. From a marketing standpoint, if a company is willing to cheapen it's brand by having 'unsightly' looking news paper racks, shouldn't that be their right? Where does the power of the city stop in deciding what is appropriate looking and what is not? Why should the city not regulate the colors that citizens paint their homes if they already regulate the color of newspaper stands?


Currently Existing Code

The Lexington Herald-Leader had pointed out that there was already a code on the books [2] to deal with news paper racks, but that it was not presently enforced. Presently, the city regulates the construction and size of news paper racks, and it is up to the Police Chief to regulate further.

This should lead to the question 'do we really need to pass another, expensive, and strict ordinance to deal with an issue that the city government has not been willing to deal with for quite sometime under present laws?' The efficiency in which the stands would be installed should also be called into question, since the publishers would not be able to do so in a manner that they would see fit-the city would have the racks installed (at a nominal fee).


Main source: [4] [3]

References

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