Newspaper litter a First Amendment issue, town officials say

Chicago Tribune
Residents of the Chicago suburb St. Charles, Ill., have to solve the problem of uninvited newspapers themselves, town officials say. The offending papers are “often free versions of papers from media companies in the area including the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Herald, the Kane County Chronicle and the St. Charles Examiner,” City Administrator Brian Townsend tells the Tribune’s Kate Thayer.

City Attorney Gerald Gorski said the city cannot set limitations on the distribution of printed materials, although some have tried. Municipalities who in the past have regulated the practice have been shot down by the courts, he said.

“The First Amendment trumps everything,” Gorski said, adding that because the papers include not just advertising but editorial content, they are protected.

Gorski suggested residents contact publishers to request they stop delivery.

Last year the College of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin banned newspaper boxes from the building that houses its journalism school, in part because of concerns about litter. In advance of last year’s Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, N.C., removed standalone newspaper boxes from some locations because of security, not litter, concerns.

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  • Patrick Boylan

    In our neighborhood people have tried to ask the Chicago Tribune to stop delivering its “Local Values” and “Red Plum” TMC products. The customer service numbers suggested by the wrap do not connect to a person but an auto system (you need an account number, which non-subscribers don’t have. It is based on your telephone number). Connecting to the Operations manager, if you are lucky enough to know who is responsible, does not have an effect. Talking to the carrier on the street gets the same result.

    There seems no way to stop them from landing on the porch or worse, in the bushes, flowers or trees, twice a week.

    In our neighborhood, there is no editorial in the content. Drive around and you see them accumulating for weeks outside some doors. These ads are unwanted litter wrapped in the first amendment.