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Nov. 5, 2019, 10:21 a.m.
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These five gentlemen — the commissioners of Citrus County, Florida — have denied county librarians’ funding request of $2,700 for a digital group subscription to The New York Times. (The library has 70,000 cardholders, meaning Times digital access could be provided at an annual cost of about $0.04 per patron.) “I don’t want The New York Times in this county. I don’t like them. It’s fake news,” commissioner Scott Carnahan said, according to the Citrus County Chronicle.

“You can go to the library and have internet access to all kinds of media,” commissioner Jimmie Smith told the Chronicle. “There’s a plethora of different websites available.”

Commissioner Jeff Kinnard: “I don’t feel like the county is obligated to subscribe to every major newspaper or every point of view. At some point, you draw the line.” (The Chronicle reported that Citrus County’s library system had no digital subscriptions to any newspaper.)

The decision was made on October 24, the same day that Trump ordered that all government subscriptions to The New York Times and The Washington Post be canceled (though, The Washington Post points out, the county’s meeting actually began a few hours before Trump’s decision was first reported). The story bubbled up into state and then national news this week, with a boost from social media.

These sorts of group digital subscriptions to libraries are a growing business for the Times; in February, it struck a deal with the California library system to provide access to the state’s 23 million library card holders. It has similar deals in place in Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Ontario, and more.

Amid backlash, it appears possible that the Florida commissioners will reconsider the decision. “Do I think I made a mistake? Yes,” commissioner Scott Coleman told the Chronicle. “Our decision should have been impartial, instead of having it become a personal thing.”

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