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Letter: WCT's political letter policy curbs free speech

Have you noticed that this paper, the West Central Tribune, now requires payment from any of its readers who offer a letter for publication regarding any candidate for any elective office, from dog catcher to president and for any ballot issue from the least to the most important?

Have you also noticed that this paper has a monopoly as the only daily paper in our area?

In the tension between journalistic ethics and greed, greed is the clear winner. At a time when big money controls political speech, the letter to the editor has been the one channel that allowed the little guy to speak. This paper has now closed that channel.

This is not just another business decision about advertising rates. This goes directly to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gives special protection to newspapers that is not accorded to any other business or profession.

The same sentence of the First Amendment that gives special protection to this paper gives us, the protected right to freedom of speech, particularly written speech.

Free speech and a free press have a logical hand-in-glove relationship. You can't have one without the other. A constitutional right is a sad joke if it comes with a price that you can't afford.

The authors of the First Amendment intended to protect written political speech, not the advertisements, sports pages, funnies, personal advice and horoscopes, and cute kitty and kid pictures that make up the bulk of this paper.

Note that the WCT is wholly owned and controlled by a corporate media behemoth, Forum Communications, which owns at least 28 newspapers (19 of them in Minnesota), four television stations, and one radio station, and has more than 2,500 employees.

It's a family affair when it comes to who calls the shots at Forum, that is the intertwined Marcil-Black family, which owns and controls all of it.

This is a big deal. We need to fight this.

John H. Burns