Postal Shakedown

Every year, devotees of the independent press lament the death
of another worthy publication. This year, we may be mourning an
outright slaughter.

On March 19, the Board of Governors of the United States Postal
Service approved a plan to raise postal rates across the country.
The change will disproportionately raise rates for small and
independent publications — many of which are barely scrapping by
in the first place — and leave large publications relatively
unscathed. Peter Rothberg, blogging for the
Nation, estimates that the cost of
distributing the Nation will skyrocket $500,000
annually. And the outlooks for smaller publications are equally
grim. As Timothy Karr of the
Free Press writes, the new rate hikes
‘put diverse and free speech in America at risk.’

The driving force behind the new rate hikes, according to the
editor in chief of the Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel, is
the media conglomerate Time Warner. In an interview with
Democracy Now!, vanden Heuvel cites
internal documents from the Post Office Board of Governors in
which the board recommends ‘a rate structure proposed by Time
Warner, Inc’ — publisher of such massive titles as
People and Time. The idea, according to vanden
Heuvel, is for Time Warner to secure beneficial rates by
‘dictat[ing] what the postal rates will be in this country.’

An unlikely alliance has emerged to combat the planned hikes.
Progressive publications including the
and In These Times have signed a letter with
conservative publications such as the
and the
National Review calling upon the Board
of Governors to revoke or delay the increases. A copy of that
letter can be read at
the Free Press website(pdf).

According to the letter, small publications serve ‘a vital
function in American politics and culture.’ (They’re also the
backbone of the Utne Reader: Most of the 1,200
publications in our library are small magazines that will be
disproportionately affected by these rate increases.) The hikes are
not set to go into effect until July 15. Until then,
Free Press has created a website where
individuals and publications can take action by contacting Congress
and speaking out against the plan.

Go there >>
Stamp Out the Rate Hikes

Go there too >>
Disseminate Information, Protect Democracy

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