Small Philly Publishers Lose Street Space

Is the following article real?!?!?!

By MARYCLAIRE DALE
The Associated Press
Saturday, September 13, 2003; 8:51 AM

PHILADELPHIA – In Philadelphia, the latest turf battle involves street
corners – and who gets to distribute newspapers there.

Under a three-year-old law the city plans to start enforcing Monday, papers
that don’t publish at least once a week will have to move their boxes to a
mid-block location.

“That’s a far inferior location for any paper. The foot traffic is a lot
lower. People aren’t really stopping and pausing,” said Mattathias Schwartz,
24, who last year started The Philadelphia Independent, a quirky, monthly
broadsheet whose design conveys an 18th-century feel.

Some people question the timing of the crackdown.

Democratic Mayor John F. Street, whose administration ordered the news box
crackdown, remains in a tough re-election fight with less than eight weeks
to go in the race.

“When anything happens this close to election time, and when the main
victims are going to be the smaller, infrequent publishers, the
independents, one gets kind of suspicious as to why,” said Councilman David
Cohen.

“Under the bill, the big press owns the street corners,” Cohen said.

City Council passed the ordinance, which also sets fees for the boxes, in
1999, following prompting from a group that advocates beautifying the city.

But the new rules have gone largely unnoticed, allowing for the usual array
of free newspapers, foreign language papers and apartment guides to appear
on Philadelphia’s street corners.

According to a city spokeswoman, Managing Director Phil Goldsmith detected a
problem after a recent move to Rittenhouse Square, a high-rent neighborhood
downtown.

“The managing director has decided that there’s a need to improve the way
our city looks by removing a lot of things that are … blighting the city
and are also creating public safety hazards,” spokeswoman Luz Cardenas said
Friday.

Some boxes have been chained to fire hydrants or block handicap access, she
said.

“There is no intention to violate anybody’s First Amendment rights or cut
out the smaller papers,” Cardenas said.

Bruce Schimmel, who started the free weekly Philadelphia City Paper in 1981,
said the paper wouldn’t have gotten off the ground under the current rules.

The paper started as a monthly before becoming a biweekly and then, in 1985,
a weekly. Schimmel sold the paper – which today has a circulation of over
100,000 – in the mid-1990s.

“To me, that’s what makes the life of the city, the ideas you can get on the
street all the time,” Schimmel said. “(It’s) the only public green we have
left … and they want to license it. That’s wrong.”

Schwartz, a Portland, Ore., native believes the law exemplifies the problems
inherent in media consolidation.

“We want to make sure that Philly remains a place – it has been for hundreds
of years – where anyone can find their voice and present it to the public in
the tradition of (Thomas) Paine and (Benjamin) Franklin,” he said.

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