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Editorial: (Almost) Free of Charge
This summer, in early August, STL Distribution began circulating a notice to local businesses. They were offering to clean up the free-publication racks that plague most markets and gas stations. STL Distribution was offering to pay individual businesses to be in charge of their oft-cluttered magazine racks.
Of course, there is a catch; two catches, actually. The first is that STL Distribution had a noticeable condition for their services: They would reserve the right to allow or deny any publication to be displayed in any businesses contracted with them.
Independently owned publications like Sauce would have to pay a fee not unlike a sub-lease to remain on the racks in STL Distribution’s territory. Of course, that is assuming STL Distribution didn’t reject Sauce magazine’s request.
You see, STL Distribution is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lee Enterprises, owners of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Sauce competitor, Feast magazine. So, what possible motivation would STL Distribution have in denying Sauce? Profit motivation, the American lifeblood.
Of course, STL Distribution has made it clear that this policy is in place so they can reject pornographic magazines, or publications businesses find unpleasant. They will accept any interested publication that wants to play by the rules.
The problem? They shouldn’t have to play by the rules. Most of the publications that will be affected (including the Riverfront Times, the publication covering the controversy with the most interest) are free to the public. They represent the essential, core beauty of our freedoms of press and speech. A third party like STL Distributors has no place entering into the process of free information to the masses. Publications don’t want or need middlemen between them and the reader.
When corporate interest inches into our publications, everybody suffers. More private-sector ownership of media is only going to choke an already suffocating field.
The Journal stands firmly against STL Distribution and firmly with the St. Louis Independent Publications Alliance, a collection of newspapers independently owned and resisting the new proposal by STL Distribution.
Readers and citizens should stand up against limiting access.Stand against corporate interference and stand by free publications.