Newspaper boxes protected by First Amendment

The News & Observer
Newspaper boxes have returned to Raleigh-Durham International Airport after a six-year legal battle between news organizations and the airport authority, which wanted to sell printed papers only in terminal shops. USA Today, The New York Times and The News & Observer are available in shops and boxes, after a federal appeals court upheld a 2008 ruling “that the news rack ban violated the newspapers’ First Amendment right to disseminate the news.” In his ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III said:

“It must be remembered that a news rack ban like the one in place primarily restricts political speech and that political speech, of course, is at the core of what the First Amendment is designed to protect … An informed citizenry is at the heart of this democracy, and narrowing the arteries of information in the manner sought by the Authority will only serve to impair our country’s coronary health.”

Wilkinson was an editor at The Virginian-Pilot for three years in the late ’70s and early ’80s. || Related: Newspaper boxes are a First Amendment issue in another North Carolina county, which notes that the Supreme Court has even weighed in on news rack First Amendment cases.

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  • Poynter

    That’s an excellent question. I’ll see what I can learn about it and then publish anything relevant. –Julie

  • Anonymous

    I’ve always wondered why local governments don’t distinguish between boxes that dispense news publications and those that offer only advertisements. In New York City and in Atlanta, cities where I’ve lived and worked for newspapers, many corners are cluttered with boxes offering brochures from real estate companies, catalogues from online learning companies, etc. By my rough count, about two-thirds of the boxes on the average corner in NYC don’t contain newspapers but instead contain only advertisements. Those can’t be protected by the First Amendment. And if newspaper owners pushed to have cities remove them, there would be less clutter and less pressure to remove newsracks as well.