Independent paper at Louisiana State U. sues campus daily for unfair competition

Claiming the campus student newspaper has created an unfairmarket for competition, the Tiger Weekly, an independent newspaper at LouisianaState University in Baton Rouge, has sued its school-sponsored counterpart,The Reveille.

Tiger Weekly publisher Wayne Lewis saidThe Reveille is supposed to be used as a learning tool for the journalismprogram, not as a tool to thwart competition. The Tiger Weekly prints onWednesdays, and recently added a Monday edition.

Lewis claims TheReveille, which prints Tuesday through Friday, is planning a Monday edition,specifically to compete.

“The real reason that we filed the suit wasthis past spring we started a Monday edition specifically because that was theone day of the week that they did not publish. We did that, it was successfuland before the semester was out, they began drawing plans up to publish onMondays beginning this fall,” Lewis said. “We believe that’s just directlycompeting with us and they’re using state money to do so.”

He also saidThe Reveille is able to charge significantly lower advertising ratesbecause about 30 percent of its budget comes from student fees. The lower ratesmake the market tougher for any competing news outlets, Lewis said.

“Irealize, and I do respect, that the university relies on The Reveille asa classroom tool for its journalism program, to train students and give themexperience in the field,” he said. “However, when that tool goes into theprivate marketplace and sets artificially low ad rates, effectively keeping outcompetition, that’s not the role of the universitynewspaper.”

Reveille adviser Howard Areceneaux said he feltconfident that the student newspaper would prevail.

SPLC View: This isone of those fights that makes everyone a bit uncomfortable. Fair competition isfundamental to free expression. But the Tiger Weekly’s lawsuit rejectsthe very nature of most college student newspapers (and could affect many otherschool-sponsored activities that have commercial counterparts).

Thissuit comes several years after a lengthy, expensive, thoroughly unpleasant andsimilar fight between the Iowa State Daily student newspaper at IowaState University and the commercial city paper, the Ames Daily Tribune.That battle ended in a settlement, and today the two newspapers have worked tocreate a healthy, respectful relationship. We hope the case in Louisiana won’tresult in a court decision that does lasting damage to collegemedia.