July 6, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Sheriff doesn’t like competition
By Jody Reese

Last week Mayor Frank Guinta called all businesses that distribute newspapers, magazines and advertising books in the city of Manchester together to tell them that there is a new sheriff in town. Hippo was at that meeting.

At that meeting Guinta’s staffer Sean Thomas and the Union Leader agreed that there were too many newspapers in Manchester and that the government should step in and regulate newspaper boxes.

That’s right, Guinta and the Union Leader want to control your access to this newspaper and our daily sister paper, the Manchester Daily Express.

Why is he doing this? It can’t be because of citizen complaints. The mayor’s office says they have received zero complaints. No, the real issue here is that Hippo hasn’t exactly cheered on the mayor’s every move. As the success of this paper is based on free distribution (rather than home delivery, like the Union Leader), it’s no secret that we would be disproportionately harmed by city regulations limiting our circulation.

Add to that that last month we launched the Manchester Daily Express, a free five-day-a-week newspaper focusing on the Queen City. The Express provides a different view of the city than, say, the Guinta-worshiping Union Leader, and as such is not always in step with the mayor’s agenda. For example, the Express has been covering some major spending project supported by the mayor (such as the $24 million public works expansion), not the kind of information available from other newspapers in the city and not the message Guinta wants voters to hear.

Perhaps knowing that this move to limit access to the Hippo and Express would be unpopular with the city’s aldermen, the Guinta administration is proposing to take this action without putting it to a vote before the board.

Guinta’s move to limit newspaper boxes is completely unwarranted. As it is now, Hippo and other newspapers must register all newspaper boxes with the city. For five years, we’ve worked with city officials to place our boxes in locations that don’t interfere with the public or with city functions such as snowplowing. Where there are issues, we work with the public works department directly and resolve them.

In all that time, we’ve received exactly zero complaints about our boxes—in fact, merchants often request them. But if we received complaints, we’d make sure everyone is satisfied. We do that because it’s good business, as opposed to the Guinta approach, which is to limit competition.

Newspaper boxes are a sign of prosperity in cities. New York has them. So do Boston, Philadelphia and every other American city. For many years, there was just one newspaper box on the city streets of Manchester; now there are a half dozen. That’s great. That means choice.

Having just celebrated our independence, we should be trying to figure out ways to give people more ways to access information about their city government, not less.

If Hippo and the Express can do that for free from newspaper boxes, then why would Guinta want to stop that? There’s no good reason.


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