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Like many small publications, we've been notified of a 23 percent postal increase for the upcoming year. This is approximately $95,000 more than last year's postage costs, which reduces the amount of money available for covering our expenses by $2.37 per subscriber. It will now cost 6 cents more each week per copy mailed to your home. From the $43.95 we receive for each subscription, $12.94 will go directly to the U.S. Postal Service. This does not include printing or any other costs for producing the National Catholic Reporter newsweekly.
Reasonable increases are to be expected, but something else is happening here. Alternative publications that provide independent reporting are being squeezed out of business by forces that are able to influence price structuring in favor of larger entities. For example, postage costs for mega-magazines such as Time-Warner's Time, People and Sports Illustrated will go up only slightly. This did not happen by accident. The postal rate increase plan was actually advanced by media giant Time-Warner as a means for providing incentives for greater efficiencies in publication mailing. Not an unreasonable goal for a society more interested in market performance than in the support of a diverse and vibrant independent press. But this isn't the case.
At stake is a fundamental principle upon which the postal service of this country was built: subsidizing alternative voices to promote democracy. Disproportionate rate increases that treat giant conglomerates and small alternative media publications as equal players on a level playing field are not only unfair, but undermine the tools that help protect human rights and freedom of speech. This country was built on the recognition that an engaged citizenry is its greatest means for protecting self-government under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Since 1863, the United States has consistently recognized the need for subsidized mail classifications such as second- and third-class rates. If there are abuses, then they should be dealt with, but not at the expense of a free flow of information so necessary for an informed citizenry. The protection of human rights must never be equated with commercial products, entertainment and sports publications.
National Catholic Reporter has survived many cold winters and will continue to seek ways for delivering independent reporting to our readers. We believe in the protection of independent journalism and the need to counter a trend that has seen the reduction from 50 corporations controlling the news to eight in the last 24 years. We are grateful for your financial support over the years as we reaffirm our commitment to creating a better world and a healthier church. Thanks for being there as we face the future together.
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These are not easy times, particularly as we read about the $660 million settlement agreement in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The temptation to walk away in frustration is always an option for you, me and just about everyone else involved in this church.
Yet, when I read the Sermon on the Mount and the presentation of the Beatitudes, I return to the reality that we are an Easter people. If you have the time, you might consider a suggestion from Jesuit Father John Dear to read once again the Acts of the Apostles, where Jesus' followers are able to rise to new heights in doing great things for God, for one another and for the world. In a sense these New Testament stories pack a powerful punch for a church caught in the midst of controversy and division. They remind us of our roots, the starting point for entering the future.
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Sister Rita Larivee is the publisher of National Catholic Reporter.
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