Problems with news racks at post offices?

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The National Newspaper Association has advice for newspapers who face requests by local postmasters to remove news racks from post offices.

While your postmaster may be correct that postal regulation prohibit vending of products on postal grounds, that rule doesn’t apply to public sidewalks that may be on the postal property, according to association’s Tonda Rush and Max Heath.

The news rack prohibition doesn’t cover “sidewalks along the street frontage of postal property falling with the property lines of the Postal Service that are not physically distinguishable from adjacent municipal or other public sidewalks and any paved areas adjacent to such sidewalks that are not physically distinguishable from such sidewalks” 39 C.F.R. 232.1(a)(ii).

“If a rack is on a sidewalk that the public may also use to access other retail or office buildings, or is clearly a city sidewalk, for example, it is likely to be news-rack eligible,” Rush said. “The stairs into a post office, on the other hand, probably are not eligible. If a sidewalk’s only purpose is to bring people from a parking lot to the post office, it is less likely to be news-rack eligible.”

The rule doesn’t apply in contract post offices, such as a country store with the post office inside. Heath said if the store is OK with the rack, then the postal service should have no beef.

Requests to remove a rack should be taken seriously. Rush said disobeying an order can lead to a fine of $50 or 30 days in jail or both.

Postmasters are being told to allow 30 days to remove a rack, which should allow time to resolve a dispute as to whether the rack location falls under the postal prohibition.

If you want to report an enforcement action against a news rack, contact Tonda Rush at tonda@nna.org or Max Heath at maxheath@lcni.com.

For additional guidance, Hoosier State Press Association members can contact Stephen Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, at (317) 624-4427 or skey@hspa.com.