Moyers’ Postal Protest

Veteran journalist Bill Moyers is using his PBS show, Bill Moyers’ Journal, to raise the public profile of a postal rate change that has been stirring anger in the progressive press for weeks.

Earlier this month, the price of a first-class stamp went up two cents, to 41 cents. What most people do not know is that another postal rate increase is proposed to go into effect July 15, this one affecting magazines. Robert W. McChesney, a professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and founder of the progressive media organization Free Press, writes in In These Times that smaller magazines could see their postal costs increase by as much as 25 percent, while those of large, mass-market magazines would see a much smaller increase. The magazines had been preparing for a still-high, but more equally shared, rate increase of about 12 percent.

Moyers, in an essay written for his show, says:

It’s time to send an SOS for the least among us—I mean small independent magazines. They are always struggling to survive while making a unique contribution to the conversation of democracy. Magazines like National Review, The American Prospect, Sojourners, The American Conservative, The Nation, Washington Monthly, Mother Jones, In These Times, World Magazine, The Christian Century, Christianity Today, Columbia Journalism Review, Reason and many others.

The Internet may be the way of the future, but for today much of what you read on the Web is generated by newspapers and small magazines. They may be devoted to a cause, a party, a worldview, an issue, an idea, or to one eccentric person’s vision of what could be, but they nourish the public debate. America wouldn’t be the same without them.

Our founding fathers knew this; knew that a low-cost postal incentive was crucial to giving voice to ideas from outside the main tent. So they made sure such publications would get a break in the cost of reaching their readers. That’s now in jeopardy. An impending rate hike, worked out by postal regulators, with almost no public input but plenty of corporate lobbying, would reward big publishers like Time Warner, while forcing these smaller periodicals into higher subscription fees, big cutbacks and even bankruptcy.

It’s not too late. The postal service is a monopoly, but if its governors, and especially members of Congress, hear from enough citizens, they could have a change of heart. So, liberal or conservative, left or right, libertarian, vegetarian, communitarian or Unitarian, or simply good Samaritan, let’s make ourselves heard.

Free Press and alternative media organizations are encouraging people to go to to send letters to members of Congress and to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors to stop the rate hike.


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