The Path to Public Service at SEAS
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The Ames Daily Tribune has rightly filed a lawsuit against the Iowa State Daily on, the grounds that the student Daily, by soliciting advertising that would otherwise contract with the Tribune, is unfairly competing with private business. We agree that as the situation stands, the Daily should be considered part of the state government and should therefore be required to obey anti-competition laws and other protections for private business. But the student newspaper can defend itself by incorporating, thereby resolving the Tribune's accusations and providing a permanent, independent and credible foundation for student voice at Iowa State University.
The Tribune's current suit follows an earlier victory that made all the records of the Iowa State Daily available under sunshine laws, which call for freedom of information about the workings of government agencies. The Tribune's present case challenges the legality of the Daily to solicit advertisers off campus. The Tribune correctly cites Iowa's anti-competition laws, which prevent governmental agencies from competing directly with private businesses. The Tribune notes that the Daily currently receives a sizable portion of its budget from the University: $75,000 in student fees. It is therefore, albeit indirectly, a state entity, and is unfairly endangering the Tribune's ability to compete for advertisers.
However, the students of Iowa State University have the right to a voice on campus and in their city. They should not be held subservient to the compromises in advertising and privacy suggested by the rival Tribune. The Tribune's lawsuit provides the impetus for a more fair solution: the Iowa State Daily should incorporate to protect itself from the use of public-information laws by groups such as the Ames Tribune to access advertising contracts and other vital documents.
As a part of the state, the Daily can be prohibited from competing with the private newspaper for advertising. Incorporation will protect the Iowa State Daily's right to confidential records and to courting advertisers by making the Daily a separate and independent corporate entity. Iowa State University could continue to pay subscription costs to an incorporated Iowa State Daily.
Compromises such as that of only seeking on-campus advertisers would not only marginalize public-school newspapers, as Daily Editor-in-Chief Keesia D. Wirt has said, but they may also financially cripple these newspapers, allowing rivals like the Tribune to monopolize the market.
(As an incorporated, private newspaper, The Crimson is not threatened by legal action such as that filed against the Iowa State Daily. This newspaper, and its free delivery, have been made possible by The Crimson's internal budget, not by any Harvard University funding).
We recognize the validity of the Ames Daily Tribune's lawsuit against the Iowa State Daily. But student voice must not be lost in the legal scramble this lawsuit has caused. Hopefully this suit will be resolved easily through incorporation and the Iowa State Daily can establish an voice equal to or even outdo the Ames Daily Tribune on even, private footing.
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