Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Oh My God, the Trees!

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Oh My God, the Trees!

Article excerpt

Drop that Metro! Put the RedEye down -- slowly, slowly -- into that recycling bin! Keep your hands where we can see them, while we take away that Examiner poking out of your backpack.

Free newspapers, you see, are the 32-page equivalent of suicide bombers hurling themselves at the environment -- deforesting Europe and Canada, wiping out biodiversity, and accelerating global warming. The campaign to effectively criminalize free newspapers has begun, and the sleepy powers-that-be in the U.S. newspaper industry don't appear to have a clue of what's about to hit them.

When a Chicago alderman recently slipped into an anti-litter law a provision forbidding the delivery of free papers, few took notice. On this side of the Atlantic, the jihad against free newspapers so far has been mostly confined to the blogosphere. But in Europe, the birthplace of the modern free newspaper business model, it's a different story.

The epicenter is in London, where photographer Justin Canning was one day traumatized to see rubbish bins spilling over with copies of the city's two free evening papers, London Lite and thelondonpaper. He founded Project Freesheet, which in an e-petition filed with the British government unapologetically aims at ridding cities of commuter papers.

Where another activist might see free and fresh information literally handed to the working masses, Canning sees an apocalypse brewing, one copy at a time. Project Freesheet's petition is getting only a middling response, but nonetheless has amplified a public debate on free papers. …

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