Please visit our new blog - The Union News.

"Vote early and vote often." - Al Capone (1899-1947)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

U. of O. planner sues newspapers

Ad caps would create artificial news shortages
Real issue is industry's record of environmental degradation

A government union member in Eugene has filed a federal lawsuit seeking $5 billion that accuses six major newspaper publishers of cheating readers by serving mostly ads and overly warmed-over news.

Shonna S. Butler, a 50-year-old Univ. of Oregon budget and fiscal analyst with a masters degree in Planning, Public Policy and Management, has taken on the "MSM" for allowing editors to print recycled news and ads, or "hot gas", which she alleges takes up more volume in newsprint but delivers less information for readers.

Butler accuses the companies - The Oregonian/Advance Communications, Gannett/USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post - of unlawful trade practices, unjust enrichment, breach of contract and breach of covenant of good faith.

Her suit, filed last Friday and styled as a class-action complaint, is intended to represent Oregonians who read the newspapers. Butler's complaint explains that ad volume expands as they get more profitable, offering less news information per issue. "For example," the suit notes, "one copy of The Oregonian on Thursdays contains and excess of Macy's ads" while "the same quantity of newsprint from Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays has more actual news."

The Kansas City Star reported last August that major newspapers often contained less news than ads. The Star estimated that consumers were overcharged more than $2 billion a year. Complaints about the cost of warmed-over news have prompted lawsuits in Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia, according to published reports.

Officials in the news media industry have voiced skepticism about the effects that variances in ad content have on consumers. "The thumbnail is, we think this is a tempest in a teapot," said Jay McKeeman, vice president of government relations for the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, based in Salem. "There is no current, statistically reliable, accurate information about the news being ... pimped at retail."

"What's really needed," he said, "is a cost-benefit analysis on whether newspaper customers are currently being well served or adversely served by the massive environmental damage from paper-stream waste, deforestation, and global warming that is directly related to newsprint consumption. And if ad content is part of that analysis, then so be it."

Various trade groups and government agencies - including the U.S. Department of Communications, Federal Trade Commission and American Newspaper Association - have set 15% as the industry standard for news content, according to Butler's suit.

Her allegation seeks to create a class-action lawsuit that represents many newspaper readers in Oregon, said Portland attorney John S. Stone, who represents her. The suit seeks to require MSM companies to install ad-content correcting equipment on presses and post notices in print that tell customers the ad content of the newspaper they read.

The Oregonian, Apr. 5, By BRIAN DENSON

No comments:

Label Cloud