Ames newspaper settles distribution case against Iowa State University

IOWA — Officials at Iowa State University and an Ames publishing company agreed to an out-of-court settlement in mid-June, ending most parts of a dispute over distribution rights on campus.

The lawsuit began when the owners of Partnership Press sued the university, which offered more distribution areas for the campus student paper, The Iowa State Daily, than for outside publications.

It was settled when university administrators agreed to allow the publishers of the Campus Reader and the Ames Daily Tribune to distribute at 39 campus locations, said Paul Tanaka, chief legal adviser for the university.

“Essentially, the basis of the agreement was to allow off-campus publications to distribute in lounge and vending areas where it is more of a free-forum than academic buildings,” he said. “The Daily can distribute inside all academic facilities where off-campus publications still cannot.”

But Michael Gartner, editor of the Tribune, said the settlement was not fair because his publication can still be prohibited in certain buildings.

“It’s outrageous,” said Gartner, a former president of NBC News. “We can distribute in some buildings but not others. We still can’t distribute in the library, and I don’t know why.”

Gartner said the only reason he accepted the university’s settlement offer was because of the extreme financial burden.

“I settled because it’s breaking me,” he said. “This is a tiny paper. We have $160,000 in legal fees and over $200,000 in other fees.”

As part of the settlement, Iowa State is also required to reimburse Gartner between $68,000 and $109,000 in legal fees.

Jeff Stein, attorney for the Iowa State Daily, said he was pleased with the settlement.

“We get to preserve our distribution rights to students on campus,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over.”

Another related case regarding Partnership Press’ attempt to open the campus newspaper’s advertising records is pending before the Iowa Supreme Court, said Warren Madden, vice president for business and finance at the university.

Also, he said as part of the settlement in the distribution case, the commercial publisher agreed to delay action on the claim that the state-funded Daily is engaged in unlawful competition with the Tribune.

“They agreed to put it on hold for one year,” Madden said, “but they can resurrect it in May 1999. We’ll have to wait and see.”