IOWA — On January 23, the Iowa Newspaper Association will hold a special meeting to decide whether or not it will support legislation drafted by attorneys for the Ames Daily Tribune that would restrict the abilities of public universities to financially support college newspapers.
The proposed legislation aims to amend Chapter 23A of Iowa Code, which addresses competition between public entities and the private sector. According to a draft created by Tribune attorneys, the bill says no state agency would be allowed to “[e]nter into any contract or agreement providing direct or indirect financial support, whether in case or in-kind services, to any non-profit entity which sells advertising for any publication where commercial advertising gross revenues exceed One Hundred Thousand Dollars in any calendar year and where there is an agent or employee whose gross annual compensation exceeds Twelve Thousand Dollars who is not a full-time student and who directly or indirectly assists in the solicitation of such advertising.”
The Tribune has taken the law into its own hands as a result of its current conflict with the Iowa State Daily, the student newspaper at Iowa State University. The Tribune asserts that the Daily, because it receives some state funds, for example through student activities fees and rent-free space in Hamilton Hall, is competing illegally with the professional newspaper. The Tribune says that the student Daily should not be allowed to solicit advertisements or distribute its newspapers outside of the Iowa State University campus if it receives school financial support.
According to the Bulletin, the INA newsletter, the Daily “has denied the Tribune’s charges, arguing that its more aggressive competitive stance serves as a valuable real-world educational experience for students.”
The Iowa Newspaper Association has invited representatives from the Tribune and the Daily to make presentations at the joint session to be held before the board of directors and legislative committee in Des Moines. After the presentations, the board and committee will hear final statements from each side. The board will then consult with the committee to decide whether or not the association will support the proposed legislation.
If the association does decide to endorse the legislation, it will aid the Tribune with lobbying efforts to get it passed through the Iowa’s legislature.
Janette Larkin, the general manager of the Iowa State Daily, said that even if the INA votes to back the legislation, there are no guarantees that it will pass.
“I would be optimistic that the legislature would take a close look at [the legislation], and I hope that it wouldn’t pass,” Larkin said. “Otherwise, it would be sending a disastrous signal to student journalists out there.”