Big media target weekly newspapers.Like Rodney Dangerfield Rodney Dangerfield (November 22, 1921 – October 5, 2004), born Jacob Cohen, was an American comedian and actor, best known for the catchphrase "I don't get no respect" and his monologues on that theme. , free weekly community newspapers have never received much respect among the brahmins and high priests of American journalism.
They have been dissed by a protective daily newspaper industry as "shoppers" and "throwaways." University journalism departments, heavily endowed en·dow
tr.v. en·dowed, en·dow·ing, en·dows
1. To provide with property, income, or a source of income.
a. by newspaper chains and owners of dailies in one-newspaper towns, often refuse to acknowledge them or dismiss them as the "litter" of an otherwise noble profession.
Victor Jose, who has been the force behind The Graphic in Richmond, Ind., for 40 years; hopes to turn that state of disrespect around with a new book, "The Free Paper In America: Struggle for Survival." Community newspapers can no longer be ignored by the U.S. journalism establishment, declares Jose, as they now reach an estimated 88 million readers.
Jose calls upon a close boyhood friend, author Kurt Vonnegut Noun 1. Kurt Vonnegut - United States writer whose novels and short stories are a mixture of realism and satire and science fiction (born in 1922)
Vonnegut , to write a foreword to what constitutes groundbreaking work on free newspapers. Vonnegut offers the usual jeremiad jer·e·mi·ad
A literary work or speech expressing a bitter lament or a righteous prophecy of doom.
[French jérémiade, after Jérémie, Jeremiah, author of The Lamentations tinged with humor for the book. His jeremiad is aimed at the paid daily newspaper industry.
As Vonnegut notes, and as Jose argues forcefully later in the book, community newspapers are the last vestige vestige /ves·tige/ (ves´tij) the remnant of a structure that functioned in a previous stage of species or individual development.vestig´ial
n. of the independent news voices that characterized the Colonial period Colonial Period may generally refer to any period in a country's history when it was subject to administration by a colonial power.
Free independent weeklies also are targeted for extinction--either through buyouts or predatory practices--because of their very success. As Vonnegut notes: "Why are paid dailies, as often as not parts of enormous chains, doing this, doing what the First Amendment of our Constitution says our government institutions themselves must never do to any publication? They are doing it in order to perfect their monopoly on ink-on-paper advertising in their areas of circulation."
Jose chronicles some of that dirty work in violation of the spirit of the First Amendment later in his book. But first he examines the evolution of free newspapers into respectable products as a post-World War II phenomenon.
Among the flags Jose unfurls to illustrate the thriving free weekly news business in America are: the Bensonhurst Paper of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Coffee County News of Douglas, Ga.; California's Rancho Santa Fe Santa Fe, city, Argentina
Santa Fe, city (1991 pop. 341,000), capital of Santa Fe prov., NE Argentina, a river port near the Paraná, with which it is connected by canal. Review; Beach & Bay Press in San Diego San Diego (săn dēā`gō), city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay. ; Community Ad-visor of Marshall, Mich. and Webster-Kirkwood Times in suburban St. Louis.
Jose breaks the stereotype that all free papers are shoppers. He surveys figures of the Independent Free Papers of America (IFPA IFPA Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis
IFPA International Fresh-Cut Produce Association (now United Fresh Produce Association)
IFPA International Footbag Players' Association
IFPA International Flipper Pinball Association ) that show 65 percent of the "freebies" carry news. Of those, 48 percent have a newshole that is at least 25 percent or more. Jose notes that these papers have become respectable news products comparing favorably with paid circulation papers.
In an increasing number of one-daily newspaper markets, where the dominant media are often chain-owned, the free community weekly is often the only print option left for local advertisers and readers. This has led to some Armageddon-like clashes and encounters.
Legal precedents lost
Jose details two very important examples of legal encounters between daily newspapers and independent free weeklies from the 1980s--one case occurring in Salem, Ore., and the other, in Orlando, Fla.
The author laments that both cases were settled out of court. If they had been allowed to proceed to trial, Jose argues, they could have provided precedents and clarified both issues of fair competition and attempts to monopolize mo·nop·o·lize
tr.v. mo·nop·o·lized, mo·nop·o·liz·ing, mo·nop·o·liz·es
1. To acquire or maintain a monopoly of.
2. To dominate by excluding others: monopolized the conversation. .
In 1974 the Gannett Co. bought a family-owned news business that published the two daily papers in Salem, the morning Oregon Statesman and the evening Capital Journal. With strongarm tactics, Gannett tripled the profitability of the acquired company in two years by shrinking news, eliminating ad discounts, hiking rates and charging "make ready" ad fees.
Advertisers rebelled, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Jose, and contacted a Portland-based company of community weeklies. Advertisers pledged full support if the weekly company would launch a free circulation paper in Salem. The new weekly Community Press was established, and it was welcomed by advertisers. The paper was profitable from the first issue.
Gannett did not wait long to react and strike back against the weekly. "Operation Demolition" was set in motion by Gannett to fatally cripple the Community Press. Gannett offered hefty rebates for advertisers to abandon the Press; it generated rumors that the weekly was about to fold; it threatened ill treatment of local advertisers if they refused to switch to the Gannett publications.
The big squeeze by Verb 1. squeeze by - manage one's existence barely; "I guess I can squeeze by on this lousy salary"
rub along, scrape along, scrape by, scratch along, squeak by Gannett choked and finally strangled stran·gle
v. stran·gled, stran·gling, stran·gles
a. To kill by squeezing the throat so as to choke or suffocate; throttle.
b. the Community Press. However, owners of the Press retaliated with a lawsuit accusing Gannett of unreasonable restraint of trade restraint of trade
Preventing of free competition in business by some action or condition such as price-fixing or the creation of a monopoly. The U.S. has a long-standing policy of maintaining competition among business enterprises through antitrust laws, the best-known of , conspiracy to monopolize and illegal trade practices.
Gannett settled the case for about $4 million in 1981 before it could go to trial and yield an adverse verdict. An antitrust investigation by the U.S. Justice Department also was ended. "Thus, an incomparable opportunity to bring this affair fully into the light of public awareness and to strengthen antitrust standards in the industry had been lost, never to be regained," author Jose observes.
The Orlando case
The Orlando case involved an attempt by the Chicago Tribune Chicago Tribune
Daily newspaper published in Chicago. The Tribune is one of the leading U.S. newspapers and long has been the dominant voice of the Midwest. Founded in 1847, it was bought in 1855 by six partners, including Joseph Medill (1823–99), who made the paper Co. to monopolize the Florida newspaper market area of Orlando. While the Salem case involved predatory practices to kill competition, the case in Orlando focused on the issue of whether a daily paper can be allowed to buy out its direct print competitor.
In the Orlando case, the Chicago Tribune-owned daily, the Orlando Sentinel The Orlando Sentinel is the primary newspaper of the Orlando, Florida region. It was founded in 1876 and is currently in its 131st year of publication. The Sentinel is owned by Tribune Company and is overseen by the Chicago Tribune. , wiped out its smaller competition under the now well-known credo, "if you can't beat 'em, buy 'em out."
The early 1980s Orlando case may seem quaint and aberrant today, especially to St. Louisans who are witnessing the buyout of the giant Suburban Journal weekly group by Pulitzer--without so much as a peep from the justice Department. But in 1984, attorneys with the antitrust division of the U.S. Justice Department got what they wanted in the Orlando situation--a judgment to stop monopoly--a complete and unconditional divestiture.
Rather than contest that decision, the Tribune Co. complied with the judgment. In divesting its Florida newspaper purchase, the Tribune Co. lost about $3 million of the original purchase price. But the company avoided the possibility of a court verdict that would have set a dangerous precedent for the Tribune Co. and other news chains intent on swallowing up the competition.
In retrospect, the Orlando case seems to be the last gasp of Justice Department enforcement of the Clayton Antitrust Act Clayton Antitrust Act, 1914, passed by the U.S. Congress as an amendment to clarify and supplement the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. It was drafted by Henry De Lamar Clayton. in the area of newspaper monopoly. The Reagan Administration Noun 1. Reagan administration - the executive under President Reagan
executive - persons who administer the law Justice Department came to take a dim view of antitrust enforcement and any meddling med·dle
intr.v. med·dled, med·dling, med·dles
1. To intrude into other people's affairs or business; interfere. See Synonyms at interfere.
2. To handle something idly or ignorantly; tamper. with "business growth." That view has largely carried over to succeeding administrations.
In "The Free Paper in America: Struggle for Survival," Jose laments the lost opportunity of the 1980s with the Salem and Orlando cases. Those two situations could have established precedents against buyouts and predatory practices that result in news monopolies.
As a past publisher and ally of free community newspapers, author Jose is wary about the future of his profession. The chains have all but completed their destruction of multi-newspaper towns and their rush to monopolize the daily industry. Now, the weekly chains are being targeted and gobbled by the same daily giants. The only news morsels left on the plate as competitors to the giant chains are the free, independent, weekly newspapers.
If there is any hope for the survival of the free, independent, community weeklies, according to Jose, that hope must rest in "the entrepreneurial spirit of independent free paper publishers who are motivated by a natural desire and consumed by an unnatural obstinacy Obstinacy
Obtuseness (See DIMWITTEDNESS.)
Oddness (See ECCENTRICITY.)
Oldness (See AGE, OLD. ." (Don Corrigan is a partner in, and an editor of a free, independent, community weekly business which publishes the Webster-Kirkwood Times and South County Times.)