Will he walk?
The paper you are holding in your hands is free. But that doesn’t mean you can grab the whole bundle off the rack and dump it because you don’t like something that is printed inside. But that happens. We hear there is a guy in his 60s who drives a white Ford F250 pickup and regularly picks up and tosses out the stack of CN&Rs we drop off at the North Valley Plaza Wendy’s every Thursday. He calls ours a “communist paper” that doesn’t deserve to see the light of day. Sometimes he calls our distribution manager to boast of his work. This paper’s been taken out en masse before because of something inside that didn’t sit right with somebody. But when we report the suspected violation to the police, they kind of brush off the complaint. How can you steal something that’s free? they ask. Well, there are the matters of First Amendment rights and the stealing of a company’s paid advertising. I mean, take billboards, for example. Companies pay to advertise on these big roadside signs, and potential consumers see that advertising for free. But I think if someone were caught peeling the message off the billboard, that person would face some sort of penalty. What’s the difference between that and tossing our paper?
Now comes a bill from our own Sen. Rico Oller, R-San Andreas, that would make it a crime for anyone to take 25 or more current copies of a free paper without permission of the publisher, if the specific intent is to sell the papers as recycling, deprive other folks the chance of reading the paper or to harm a business competitor. Oller reportedly got interested in the matter when he read in the Washington Times of a case in which a right-wing paper on the UC Berkeley campus was gathered up and destroyed, presumably by lefties who didn’t like what the paper had to say. With his bill, of course, Oller, a conservative, is defending the rights of “communist” papers like this one.
Apparently this despicable assault on the First Amendment happens to the Enterprise-Record’s bi-weekly advertising freebie, The Mid-Valley News, as well. Last Sunday a friend of ours dropped off a couple of photos he’d taken that show four bundles of that paper soaking up water in Big Chico Creek where it runs under the bridge at Rose and Bidwell avenues. Somebody, we think, deliberately tossed those bundles off the bridge to keep people from reading a few recycled E-R stories and a bunch of ads. We’re not saying it was the action of a derelict delivery person who didn’t want to distribute those free papers. Lord knows we’ve been down this road before, and the E-R would never allow such a thing to happen. Would it? Our friend sees the dumping as an assault on the environment, so he waded into the creek to fish the bundles out. He suggests this as a motto for the Mid-Valley: "From our press to your creek."