News rack war

The news rack war has returned.

The Minneapolis City Council today introduced an ordinance to charge newspapers fees for newspaper racks. According to WCCO:

“There’ll be a fee, yeah. There’ll be a fee imposed, $39 per box, per year,” said Minneapolis city councilmember Ralph Remington.

For the free Downtown Journal — with more than 100 boxes — that adds up.

“What’s it going to do to me if I got to shell out, you know, half a salary on news boxes that I haven’t ever had to shell out before? I’m either going to raise my advertising rates or I’m going to lay somebody off,” said Downtown Journal publisher Terry Gahan.

This could be a battle of attrition, literally. There are some fees already in place in St. Paul. But in the past, this has been a contentious issue that ends up in the court in a battle over the First Amendment.

Atlanta, for example, tried imposing fees on newspaper racks during the Atlanta Olympics, according to the First Amendment Center:

The appeals court also struck down an Atlanta license-fee plan for news racks as imposing too high a price to pay for the exercise of First Amendment freedoms. Citing an earlier decision, the appeals court reasoned that cities can charge licensing fees as long as the fees do not cover more than what is needed to offset administrative costs.

Times have changed since the big court battles of the ’80s and ’90s, though. Cities don’t have the money to waste on lawsuits, and newspapers don’t even have the money left to get the news, let alone go to court.

So the solution will likely be the “new economy” way of doing things — the two sides will cut a deal.

  • Matt

    So, given the number of newspaper boxes I’ve seen, multiplied by 40 bucks — where can I apply to be the city inspector? Sounds like a pretty nice job to tell the Strib it was a a “big news day” or that their box is broken.

    I’d like to know how many boxes the Strib would just take down and specifically which neighborhoods? I wonder if the Pioneer Press would even bother anymore. It’s bad enough we pay 50 cents for what people on the other side of the river pay a quarter, heh.

    I can’t imagine the freesheets surviving that, either…

  • Bob Collins

    Given the fact that if you subscribe to the paper, then call to cancel, they’ll practically give you the paper free… I’m surprised more people don’t subscribe.

    Same with the New York Times.

    Newspapers are desperate and consumes can reap the reward.

  • beryl k gullsgate

    Forget the box. hire a newsboy and create jobs eh?

    Maybe the ‘read-all-about-it’ kid on the corner newsboy will re-emerge complete with high-top laced shoes and rough wool knickers and his visor cap at a saucy who needs a rusty metal box when you can pay a kid whose family is out-of-work, come the recession/Depression?

    Or if that’s not yet, already too much cynical nostalgia…remember when you bought internationional papers from all over the world at Shindlers on Hennepin ( gone so long I probably can’t spell it?)…or the skinny man in an old suit, shirt a little frayed on the edges and he sold the news at his small newstand on Nicolett outside Walgreens… I bet he could tell you a story for almost every other paper he sold; small talk with a passerby who bought a paper and dropped a word and then some…ever tried to talk to a gray box??

    Sounds a lot more desirable or should one say ‘human’ than ‘metal box’ on the sidewalk that says nothing and often won’t open no matter how much you bang on the da-m thing and you just lost 50 cents?…beryl k gullsgate

  • Gail

    This story is a concern to me for a number of reasons not least of which is that one of the three jobs that my freelance artist son has is delivering a free paper to various outlets. Another reason is, in an already precarious economic environment for print media, losing yet another outlet of access is depressing. It certainly doesn’t feel like a WIN for the city.

  • Scooterbum

    I used to call the city once a month to complain on the news boxes at 37th and Johnson in N.E. The city had narrowed the sidewalk and with the news boxes chained to every post the only place to walk was on the street. They are hazards to walkers and bicyclists on bus routes. How about vending them on the bus and giving metro transit a cut?