Monday, June 29, 2009

Jerk of the Day: Charlie Sykes

By Lisa Kaiser
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Once again, our friend at Newsradio 620 WTMJ (a subsidiary of Journal Communications) gets the story wrong. On Monday morning, while commenting on the state budget, Charlie Sykes “reported” that the Shepherd Express was designated by the state Legislature as the “paper of record” for the Milwaukee area. First of all, there is no such thing as a “paper of record for the Milwaukee area.”

Sorry Charlie, you misunderstood the issue—again.

The issue Charlie was trying to describe arose when some legislators on the state budget committee responded to the fact that state laws limit the placement of legal notices primarily to the Journal Sentinel and a minor construction publication. As a result, people pay more for legal notices in Milwaukee County than in comparable counties in other states where there is fair competition. So the budget committee proposed new rules, which were then passed by both houses of the Legislature, that would have expanded the definition of which papers could publish legal notices. The expanded definition included the Shepherd Express.

Legal notices are often a requirement in the legal process and are not paid with taxpayer dollars. Currently there is a near-monopoly on the revenue generated by these notices. A major recipient of these private funds is the corporation that signs Charlie’s paychecks—Journal Communications, Inc. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel successfully lobbied the governor to veto this budget provision, which would have created some real competition and lowered prices. The Journal Sentinel is using the governor to help them stifle competition as they watch their circulation continue to decline—at the same time the Shepherd’s audited pick-up rate is at a record high 98% (it’s true—98 out of every 100 Shepherds get picked up by a reader).

Hey Charlie, you claim to be a pro-business guy, so why are you against fair competition? Apparently, when competition will bite the hand that feeds you, you are willing to completely distort the facts to protect your own interests and disparage the free market.

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