Chicago Publishers Howl As City Imposes Rack Law p.24

By: MARK FITZGERALD A convention of travel agents is coming to town in May and
Mayor Daley is in a hurry to tidy up his streets
At the beginning of the Chicago City Council's April 1 meeting, aldermen lauded the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Sun-Times with a resolution and a standing ovation.
About an hour later, the same council pushed through a City Hall plan that would force the Sun-Times and dozens of other newspapers into multiple-title news racks for all downtown distribution ? whether the papers like it or not.
"That irony was not lost on us," said Mark Hornung, the Sun-Times' vice president of circulation.
And the papers, it is clear, do not like the city's plan: A one-year "pilot program" that will replace 560 news boxes along the main streets of Chicago's Loop and North Michigan Avenue downtown district with 60 multiple-title boxes to be supplied by JC Decaux, the French "street furniture" supplier that was a minor player in San Francisco's recent news rack experiment.
"The city has done minimum to nothing to involve the publishers in coming up with a plan that can be a win/win. The city has just dictated a plan and they think that is the end of it," said Hermene Hartman, publisher of the free-distribution black-interest paper N'Digo.

news box 'clutter' cited
Newspapers say Chicago officials first approached the Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and a few national dailies at the beginning of the year about supposed news rack "clutter" in the Loop.
"We had been working towards a voluntary program," said Vincent Casanova, vice president of manufacturing and distribution for the Chicago Tribune.
At the end of March, however, the city suddenly called a meeting of big and small newspaper publishers ? again, ironically, on the day Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley was presiding over the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Sun-Times production plant ? and announced City Hall was going to install the Decaux boxes by Memorial Day.
"This meeting was the most appalling meeting I've ever been to in my life. They changed the agenda, they didn't have a copy of the ordinance that was going to be passed ? they couldn't even get a room. And they were going to put in 60 of these boxes by the end of May," said Douglas Wertheimer, editor of the Chicago Jewish Star. Over the years, the twice-monthly tabloid has butted heads several times with the Daley administration over news racks ? including one celebrated incident in which city employees apparently targeted the tabloid's racks for illegal removal.

travel agents are coming
What was the sudden hurry? Newspaper officials said they were told the reason was that on May 28 several hundred travel agents, tour operators and travel writers would be in Chicago for the annual meeting of the Travel Industry Association of America.
N'Digo's Hartman, however, has a more general explanation: "Really, this is just Mayor Daley's personal whim."
Indeed, the mayor is a renowned neatnik who often seems to take offense at the sight of news racks ? especially before a big event. Just before Chicago hosted the opening ceremony of the 1994 World Cup, for instance, Daley ordered all news racks permanently removed from Michigan Avenue, the city's premiere boulevard.
The idea for the multiple-title news boxes apparently came from a visit Daley made to San Francisco last year.
Earlier in his mayoralty, Daley cracked down on honor boxes when an outdoor advertising company began installing free-standing advertising billboards that it attempted to pass off as "news racks" for an all-but-fictitious monthly newspaper.

No-bid contract and ads, too
In yet another ironic twist, however, the no-bid contract for Decaux's pilot program calls for the French company to install and maintain the multiple-title boxes ? and permits the company to keep all the revenue for advertisements that will be posted on the street-facing side of the imposing units.
"The point has certainly been made in private to the city that what they perceive to be a problem with news box clutter ? which we do not see as a problem ? will be replaced with another problem that everybody doesn't want, and that is advertising clutter in the Loop," the Sun-Times' Hornung said.
Chicago officials say any paper now circulating in the Loop will be included in the boxes ? although free papers such as Hartman's N'Digo or the two alternative papers, the Chicago Reader and New City, note that their papers don't even fit in Decaux's prototype box.
In a session scheduled for mid-April, the city has invited newspapers to propose "performance standards" for the multiple-title news racks. Newspapers say they are keeping their options open, however, and that whatever action they take will be as a united front.
"We have three options," Hornung said. "Total non-cooperation, litigation or complete cooperation. My guess is we're going to do something in the middle. There's a general agreement that there are some First Amendment issues at work here."
?(Mayor Richard Daley doesn't like news box cluter.) [Photo & Caption]
?(E&P Web Site: [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher April 18, 1998) [Caption]


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