Publisher settles case with Iowa State
University to allow wider distribution of off-campus news
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 don1t 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.
Warren Madden, vice president for business and finance at the university, said more distribution boxes will be built around campus. “We are identifying areas in student lounges and vending areas were distribution boxes can be built that permit all publications,” he said. “We are also planning a couple major renovations that would be done regardless of the lawsuit.”
Madden said any accommodations for outside publications would be paid for by the publishing company.
“This will actually improve the distribution of other campus publications, like the student-run magazine,” he said.
Jeff Stein, attorney for 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.
A state court judge had ruled that the Daily was covered under the state open records law in March 1997. Madden said the publishers are seeking reimbursement for legal fees in that case as well.
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.”
In the meantime, university administrators have agreed to review their relationship with the campus newspaper.
“I think we have a good relationship,” Madden said. “We encourage the journalism department to be more engaged in the student paper. We want to hire a more full-time adviser to be there when the students want it ? more accessible to deadline later in the day and someone who can teach part-time.”
Staci Hupp, editor in chief of the Daily, agreed that the newspaper staff and administration have a good working relationship, and welcomed the prospect of getting an adviser.
“In the past, professors have stopped in periodically to give opinions, but we don’t have an official adviser,” she said. “The general consensus is that we are happy to be getting an editorial adviser. But we definitely don’t want someone telling us what to do.”
Three or four journalism students are on the selection committee, Hupp said.
“We do have a voice in the hiring of the adviser,” she said. “Overall, we find the settlement acceptable. We are still the number one paper on campus. This is not going to hurt us. Students do have a right to receive other news resources.”
As if the problems with Partnership Press were not enough for the Daily staff, they also have to deal with the Internal Revenue Service.
Stein said he was told that the newspaper, which was included in a university-wide audit for 1995 and 1996, owed up to $30,000 in back taxes because there was not enough student involvement in the advertising department.
“We attended a conference [appealing the IRS decision] April 27 in Washington, D.C., which, along with supplying additional information, is our chance to show that every dime that comes in is related to students and education,” Stein said. “No advertisements come in there unless a student touches it at one point or another. The IRS also had a flow chart with the incorrect number of non-student employees.”
A decision by IRS officials is expected in mid-August, Stein said.
Fall 1998, reports