TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM RICHTER, COUNSEL, NEWS DEALERS ASSOCIATION OF GREATER NEW YORK, NEW YORK, N. Y.
The CHAIRMAN. Will you state your full name, address, and association, for the record, please?
Mr. RICHTER. William Richter. My law office is at 150 Broadway. I live at 2600 Henry Hudson Parkway in Riverdale.
The CHAIRMAN. You represent the News Dealers Association of Greater New York?
Mr. RICHTER. That is right. I also represent the News Dealers Association of America. The News Dealers Association of Greater New York is the official association, the organization of the newsdealers of this city, particularly the licensed newsdealers.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you have a prepared statement?
Mr. RICHTER. No, sir. I have some notes here which I should like to call to the committee's attention, but I will be glad to begin my discussion by answering some of the statements that have been made by previous witnesses, if I may.
The CHAIRMAN. You may proceed in your own manner.
Mr. RICHTER. I am quoting from the newspaper reports. I did not hear the direct testimony, but I question one particular statement made by Henry E. Schultz, supposedly counsel to the Comic Magazine Publishers, wherein he stated yesterday, I believe, that there were no so-called tie-in sales to the newsdealers.
That I dispute and contradict and state that there are definitely tie-in sales to the newsdealers of this city. By tie-in sales I mean that the newsdealer has no choice. These magazines are foisted and thrust upon him. They come in a package with standard magazines, the so-called everyday reputable type of magazines.
They come in 1 package, in 1 bundle, tied together either with wire or rope, so securely that the newsdealer cannot in any manner or in any form inspect these magazines.
The CHAIRMAN. You mean, sir, with such publications as Collier's, Saturday Evening Post?
Mr. RICHTER. Yes, sir; Life, Vogue, House and Garden. They come in one package. They are thrown at him and in turn he is thrown a bill.
When I say thrown, I say literally thrown. He is given a bull, and incidentally, these magazines have not been previously ordered. These are the choices of the distributors.
The newsdealer cannot sit down as any ordinary merchant and pick his merchandise. There is no list presented to him of magazines which he may choose and which he may reject. He takes what is given to him.
As I say, it all comes on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
The CHAIRMAN. Does this situation which you describe apply to all newsdealers?
Mr. RICHTER. Yes, sir; throughout greater New York, both the licensed newsdealers and the storekeepers. I say the licensed newsdealers number about 2,000, licensed by the city of New York. That is the type of dealer on the street corner, at subway stations, and so forth.
The CHAIRMAN. That condition must exist in other large cities, then?
Mr. RICHTER. I understand it is so. We do have contacts in other cities throughout the country. I understand it is prevalent throughout the country. The newsdealer does not select the magazines, and I speak for a great majority.
I think if the newsdealers had a choice they would reject these so-called horror magazines.
Senator HENNINGS. Why do you think they would?
Mr. RICHTER. I say I am quoting people that are out in the field. There is Mr. Ben Friedman in the hearing room with me today. He is a chairman of the board of the News Dealers Association. He himself is a newsdealer. He is at Times Square, the cross-roads of the world.
If you don't hear it in Times Square you won't hear it any where in the country.
I also have Mr. Jay Kay, the secretary and treasury. He is at the entrance to the George Washington Bridge.
They have gone through the field. By the field I mean going through and visiting the newsdealers as part of their job as officers of the association.
I know I have personally talked with many newsdealers and I know if they had a choice they wouldn't want to deal with this trash.
Senator HENNINGS, I do not question your statement, but I was interested in their reasons.
Mr. RICHTER. The reasons are that they themselves have children; they won't bring that trash and junk in their own homes, and I dare say the publishers wouldn't do so.
I won't mention names, but I know in particular one publisher has stated, that put some of these horror magazines, that he himself does not bring it into his own home for his children to read. I think that is argument enough as to how they feel about it.
I have here a bill. As I say, they are not returnable. These newsdealers must accept this entire package. Of course, the newsdealer cannot in limited circumstances be a censor of these magazines, the good and the bad kind.
I say in all fairness to the publishers and distributors not all comic magazines are bad. There are some good ones. I have some good ones here.
I mean the Walt Disney type of comic books are good for children.
I know that the newsdealers would only be too happy to sell that type of magazines. There are westerns that cannot be classified as bad, but I daresay that the majority of the comic books or magazines on the stand today are outright trash.
I know that the newsdealers would not like to deal with them if they had a choice.
Now, this is a bill given to the newsdealer and the Saturday Evening Post was brought with these other types of horror magazines. Now the choice to the newsdealer is either store them away or display and sell them.
Now, a newsdealer, particularly a city newsdealer, operates in limited space. He has a news booth 6 by 5 by 3, 6 feet wide, 5 feet high, and 3 feet Wide. If he stores things in his newsstand, he must necessarily stand on the outside in all kinds of weather and they are out in good weather, bed, night and day. They are little people. They deal in pennies.
They cannot possibly sit down, they don't have the time or the inclination or the judgment or the facilities to sit down and censor these magazines.
The newsdealers cannot possibly censor these magazines. They are taken as they are brought to them. They are flooded with them; they are swamped with them.
In most cases, I daresay in all cases, they display and sell them.
Now; this is April and magazines are coming out now for July. They are not returnable.
MR. BEASER. You said that if he does not sell them he has to pay for them.
Mr. RICHTER. He pays for them before he returns them. He is billed for them and he pays for them.
Mr. BEASER. If he does not sell them?
Mr. RICHTER. They are returnable, but they, are not returnable until outdated. The bill says no credit allowed for premature returns.
If a magazine is dated July, he cannot receive them in April and return them the next day. He will hold them until July.
I daresay that if he returns them they don't go back to the publisher, they go to another newsdealer. It is a roundrobin. It is a vicious circle. They are never returned to the publisher until all means of selling these magazines are exhausted.
Mr. BEASER. You mentioned the Saturday Evening Post a while ago. Would the number of Saturday Evening Posts he receives be cut in his next shipment?
Mr. RICHTER. Possibly, yes. He is under the threat of being cut. In other words, if he should return what the distributor may think is an unreasonable amount of magazines he would be cut off completely.
Mr. BEASER. Have there been instances when that has happened?
Mr. RICHTER. Yes. So the newsdealer takes the line of least resistance. He accepts them as he gets them and does what he can with them.
Here is one magazine. The publisher appeared here yesterday, this Mr. Gaines, and how he could possibly sit here and justify his magazine is beyond comprehension. Have you gentlemen seen this thing called Panic?
The CHAIRMAN. We have seen many of them. I do not recall seeing that one.
Mr. RICHTER. This has a grotesque head. It is with apologies to Benjamin Franklin, incidentally. This fellow looks like Mr. Hyde of Jekyll and Hyde. This magazine to my mind is worse than one of the horror magazines. It is a demoralizing type of magazine. It satirizes, it ridicules the better comics.
The CHAIRMAN. May the Chair see that, Mr. Richter?
Mr. RICHTER. Yes, sir.
Comic books like Joe Palooka and Lil Abner are ridiculed.
Senator HENNINGS. Li'l Abner himself ridiculed Dick Tracy, did he not?
Mr. RICHTER. Yes, but this is done in not a critical manner, but in a gruesome manner, in a vicious manner.
You will note in this magazine beyond the middle cover what they call Pan Mail. This
magazine was banned in Boston and Mr. Gaines as the publisher seems to delight in that fact. He says, “Panic is a success. It has been banned in Boston.”
Then he goes on to quote from the newspaper reports of that city. He says:
And what were we banned for? Horror? No. Sex? No. We were banned for lampooning the poem The Night Before Christmas.
Panic in the words of the Massachusetts attorney general, Finegold, depicts The Night Before Christmas in a pagan manner. That was taken from the Springfield Daily News editorial of December 23 and also quotes the Massachusetts attorney general, Finegold, threatened criminal proceedings last week against Gaines unless the comic book Panic containing the satire of the poem was withdrawn voluntarily.
He says his original intention was to defend that, but he says when I say "he," Gaines, the publisher; the best way for him to do this is to quote from letters received from people to the magazine.
It does not identify who those people are, whether they be children, teen-agers, or grownups.
But let me, if I may, read to you two of the excerpts of letters that he publishes as justifying this type of demoralizing magazine. This is letter:
Just finished Panic. Great magazine. And I think you should be boiled in oil, stretched on a stretch rack, whipped with a cat-o-nine-tails, shot, knifed, and hanged, gassed, electrocuted, and buried alive for holding a great magazine like Panic from the public for a full year. Man it is a great comic, crazy, cool, and real dappy. This magazine will go hotter than hotcakes. When I got to the stand I bought the last one.
It was signed by someone from New York.
Here is another:
Have just finished reading the first issue of Panic. Really great. The best story was My Gun Is the Jury. As I was reading it, my mother came in and told me to put the book away. This got me mad. So I did it. I sawed the nose off of an .88 and fired low, a little below the bellybutton it went in clean and came out like a flying saucer, leaving a hole big enough to put my fist through and without further interruption finished the magazine.
Now, how any man can come here and publish rot like this and justify it is beyond comprehension.
Now, upon its face it may appear innocent. Can this poor little fellow on the street corner ─ I took it home the first time last night to read it. It appears innocent enough on the cover except for this grotesque figure of Benjamin Franklin.
But when I thumbed through it I saw what was confronting us. A newsdealer cannot possibly do this. So he just displays it and sells it.
Many times if the child appears to be of tender years the newsdealer will not sell him any horror magazine. He will say, "You had better come with your parents." Oftentimes parents come and oftentimes parents buy the magazine, and oftentimes they would rather see the children buy a Walt Disney or other such type of animated cartoons.
Mr. HANNOCH. Would you refer me to the place where he apologized to Benjamin Franklin?
Mr. RICHTER. Yes, sir.
Mr. HANNOCH. I have it.
Mr. RICHTER. Do you have it now?
Mr. HANNOCH. I have it.
Mr. RICHTER. I might also say this as to the advertisement on the back of this magazine. I will find the same advertisement in a better type comic book which is not offensive. Here is an advertisement on the back of this magazine soliciting children, boys and girls, and men an women, to buy certain religious wall mottoes for which they will receive prizes and money. It says here, "The world is on fire. Serve the Lord an you can have these prizes," giving these children the idea that by selling these religious wall mottoes they would be serving the Lord.
Now in the better-type magazine the serving the Lord had been omitted.
Mr HANNOCH. They would get an ax, a knife, it says here.
Mr. RICHTER. Yes. You can see there is a clenched fist going down.
And by doing that they will be helping to stamp out crime, graft, dope, war, and drink.
We as an association have caused to be introduced a bill the city council a copy of which I should like to show you, the purpose being to do away with many abuses of the newsdealers. Included in the bill is a provision that the publishers and distributors shall not distribute or sell to any licensed newsdealer, any publication that is lewd or indecent or any such publication that the city license commission or license department considers lewd or indecent or considers improper or unlawful for display or resale to the public.
We hope if this bill is passed it may serve its purpose.
Mr. HANNOCH. Do you think so, as a lawyer?
Mr. RICHTER. It maybe considered improper. I was going to mention that it is too vague. There are no standards and there are no guides and I, as an attorney, cannot define to you what is lewd, obscene, and indecent. Our courts have differed. Our Supreme Court, as you may know, has upset section 1141 of the penal law which would have been a weapon to combat this.
I don't criticize the Court. I daresay that the law wasn't written properly. They should have guides and standards so that a layman ─ not a court or judge, but a layman ─ should be able to understand what is indecent and what is lewd and what is improper and what is offensive, so that a newsdealer himself could know.
I should not have to go around interpreting for these newsdealers. I think they should be able to see for themselves what is bad.
Our license commissioner for the city of New York has been trying to do a laudable job, but even his hands are tied. The courts are confused, the law is confused.
To my mind I think the solution to this entire problem perhaps would be a properly worded, properly coded, properly standardized Federal legislation with censorship of distribution.
Mr. BEASER. Mr. Richter, where does this pressure come from? You said Federal legislation. Is it the local wholesaler who is bundling these up and sending them in?
Mr. RICHTER. The distributor. The newsdealer has no contact with the publisher as such. His contact is with the distributor like Manhattan News, American News. He has no contact with the publishers. He takes what he does from the distributor.
You call them wholesalers. The wholesalers operate though distributors.
Senator HENNINGS. You are aware, of course, as an able lawyer, as to the difficulty of drafting such a statute?
Mr. RICHTER. I most assuredly am, sir.
Senator HENNINGS. If you as an expert in this field have, any suggestions and would care to submit a draft to the subcommittee, I am sure we would be glad to have it.
Mr. RICHTER. I think you have felt the pulse when you said there are no standards, no guides, no proper definitions of what is lewd or indecent.
Mr. HANNOCH. Give some thought as to whether these impair the morals of children.
Mr. RICHTER. I cannot say. I am not an expert in that field. It would seem to me that it is a logical sequence that would follow from reading stuff of that kind.
I wouldn’t allow it in my house. Fortunately my child is not of sufficient age to read, but when he can read he won't want trash of this and, I can ensure this committee of that.
Now, they are not all bad. We have all these horror things. You have seen some of these love comic books. To my mind, they are as bad as the horror books. Children buy them.
As I say, newsdealers have their magazines set up on a magazine rack. They cannot oversee them. They are not an ordinary storekeeper. The children come and buy them; they pay him, and off they go. He cannot censor it and he has no choice in what he can sell.
They would love to cooperate. As I said before, I think the fault lies with the publishers, lies with the distributor, and not the poor newsdealer who is at the tail end of this line, so to speak.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Richter, did you tell the subcommittee how many members you have? I have forgotten whether you did or not.
Mr. RICHTER. Yes, sir; we have a fluctuating membership of over a thousand. We also have an affiliate association of newsdealers representing storekeepers throughout Long Island, the Long Island Stationery Owners Association. They pay monthly dues. The dues are nominal, $2 a month.
So it is not a money making association by any means. It is an association of newsdealers banded together to aid each other and to serve the public. That is their motto. That they attempt to do.
The CHAIRMAN. For the privilege of membership they pay $24 a year?
Mr. RICHTER. That is right.
The CHAIRMAN. Per dealer?
Mr. RICHTER. That is right, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Richter. You have been very helpful.
Mr. RICHTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BEASER. Mr. Alex Segal.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you solemnly swear that the evidence you will give before this subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate, will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?
Mr. SEGAL. I do.