By most standards, a ZIP code with a lot of 25- to 50-year-olds who pull down $75,000 or more a year would qualify as a decent place to live. Except for one problem: Every weekend, The Examiner delivers 200,000 copies of its combined Saturday-Sunday edition to neighborhoods fitting that description. And every weekend about 199,997 copies go untouched, cluttering sidewalks and entryways for days on end.
Some might tout The Examiner's distribution tactics — residents receive the paper whether they want it or not — as savvy marketing. Critics call it littering. So I gave the Department of Public Works a holler to find out if tossing papers on sidewalks violates the municipal code.
The short answer is yes. City ordinance prohibits dropping newspapers “upon any sidewalk, street, alley, gutterway, or other public place.” True, Examiner delivery grunts manage to fling plenty of copies onto private property. But a tour of any of the paper's victimized, er, targeted neighborhoods will reveal countless copies lying on public walkways. Or swirling above them, depending on the wind.
DPW spokeswoman Christine Falvey says the agency has received “a handful of complaints” about the Examiner's carpet-bombing. The department expressed its concerns in a letter sent to the paper earlier this year, a move that Falvey describes as less a wrist slap than an attempt at “educational outreach.”
Examiner Publisher John Wilcox contends that few people have contacted the paper to grouse about littering, adding that less than 3 percent of its intended recipients have called to refuse delivery. Yet there's an ironic aspect to the paper's chuck-and-run distribution, which also includes home delivery of 58,000 copies on weekdays. Turns out, if you leave the paper on the sidewalk outside your place, you're the one who could wind up with a littering citation. Yup, that's right: For refusing to pick up a paper you don't want, the city can fine you up to $500.
The only good news? Given a lack of enforcement, the chances you'll be cited are even lower than the likelihood of finding someone who actually requests the delivery of the Examiner.