Our Turn: Public notice issue continues to evolve

 

A PeeDeePost.com editorial

The Richmond County Daily Journal lauded Sen. Tom McInnis in its weekend edition for signing on to co-sponsor SB 129.

And no wonder, as traditional print newspapers like the Daily Journal — and not the public — will benefit most. How? Senate Bill 129 protects traditional print newspapers’ monopoly on where public notices are legally required to be published.

public-notice-scrollaThe bill, as drafted, would place a cap on what print newspapers could charge for second-run legal ads and mandate that such legally required public notice advertisements be placed online for free. If the newspaper in question doesn’t have a website, then the ad would be placed on the North Carolina Press Association website. Even papers like the Daily Journal acknowledge readers don’t flock to local government websites; in all likelihood, the general public traffic to the NCPA site is even lower.

For far too long, newspaper associations have successfully lobbied lawmakers for what amounts to hefty government subsidies — read: your taxpayer dollars — in order to make ends meet. The compromise that Sen. Norman Sanderson has drafted would save taxpayer precious little money but continues to reinforce traditional print newspapers’ unconstitutional expectation of a free lunch.

In this fiscal year that ends June 30 alone, Richmond County and the city of Rockingham governments will spend nearly $57,000 in legal advertising with the Daily Journal — every penny of that required by law. The Pee Dee Post could offer a better service (read: higher visibility and increased readership) for a much better price — less than half that, in fact. But if local governments want to place those legal notices on PeeDeePost.com, someone has to approve spending even more of your hard-earned dollars. Local officials have no good choice.

It’s time the law that requires  seldom-read, back-page buried, black-and-white notices that offer readers no engagement (and barely a font that can be read without a magnifying glass) catches up with technology.

A true compromise would change SB 129 to enabling legislation to allow local governments in jurisdiction which enjoy digital-only newspapers the option of choosing to place legal ads in either the traditional print newspaper or the digital newspaper. This would have the effect of:

* Forcing all newspapers, in print and digital, to offer a competitive rate;

* Give the local governments the ability to choose where they get the most bang for (your) buck; and

* Save taxpayers a whole lot of money

One thing neither the NC Press Association nor any publisher of traditional print newspapers want to dwell on is the declining number of paid subscribers. With few rare exceptions across America, the number of people paying to read the print newspaper is on the decline. So forcing governments to spend your money on that is nothing more than legacy media grasping at a final chance to hang on. Well let’s make one thing clear: The news is not only for the elite, not only for people who generally forget they have a print newspaper delivered to their frontyard flower bush until it’s time to dig it out each morning.

It’s time for the law to consider new media, such as digital newspapers like The Pee Dee Post, Bladen Online, AberdeenTimes.com and DavidsonNews.net  and give them the attention they deserve. Unlike traditional print newspapers in their corresponding communities, these on-the-rise digital media outlets offer more affordable rates, top-notch reader engagement and by and large a much wider audience. Each has become an information platform with which, simply put, their traditional-print counterparts can not keep up.

If the effort is to increase public awareness of the issue of individual legal notices, SB 129 isn’t the answer. Even McInnis knows that. He told The Pee Dee Post on Friday that SB 129 will do … “for now.”

“I support Senate Bill 129 because it gives a starting point to allow local newspapers to publish legal notices on line in addition to printed version,” McInnis said.” This is a compromise to several requests to go digital only for such notices.  I hope that this will be a start to legal notices being published not only in local newspapers but also in a digital format which will create savings for local tax payers.”

Laura Nakoneczny, NCPA member services director, told The Pee Dee Post that its charge is not to look out for readers.

“The bottom line is that NCPA remains primarily a newspaper organization — dedicated to the needs of the ‘print’ press,” Nakoneczny wrote to the Post. “We don’t claim to be an organization that represents all news media, and we only pursue the legislative agenda and other interests of (print) newspapers.”

Well, thank you, Ms. Nakoneczny, for your honesty. Truly.

SB 129 is not the right choice for you, for Richmond County or for North Carolina. It’ll likely get through the General Assembly, but stay tuned. There’s much work to be done. We look forward to working with lawmakers across NC to truly serve the public.

Each PeeDeePost.com editorial is an opinion piece that aims to serve the greater good. It’s message does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any individual who works with The Pee Dee Post.

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Opinion

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  • More Begging?

    If begging for handouts from the public wasn’t enough, now the Pee Dee Post is whining that it deserves government handouts too. You would rather see legal notices on PDP than in the newspaper, but what about all the people in RCO who don’t go online? I guess they don’t deserve to know what’s happening. If the paper can put things in print and on the web, how is that not better than ONLY online?

    • Kevin Spradlin

      Dear “More Begging,”

      Online readership of digital newspapers like The Pee Dee Post are higher than readership of traditional print newspapers like the Richmond County Daily Journal. Paid subscribers to the Journal … difficult to get a true number there, but it’s less than 10,000 to be sure. Online readership for PeeDeePost.com (monthly average) is more than 40,000 unique visitors.

      We also have a broader age range reading PeeDeePost.com

      The PDP’s position is not to argue that legal notices should not be published in print; the PDP’s position is that local governments should have the option of putting them in local media outlets either in print or online, wherever they deem they’ll get most “bang for the buck.”

      This will save taxpayers like you more than $27,500 each year (that figure represents savings for county and city of Rockingham taxpayers) …

      * Better visibility
      * Higher readership
      * Reduced cost.

      How does that not serve your best interest?

      • Kevin Spradlin

        There’s one more issue in play here, though slightly unrelated. Government bodies large and small spend no small amount of time on “buy local” campaigns that aim to encourage people to spend their money locally.

        Why shouldn’t local governments be expected to practice what they preach?

        In Richmond County’s case, you have two full-time news outlets; the PDP publishes seven days a week while the RCDJ publishes five days a week (with supplemental online coverage on some weekends).

        However, the policies for the PDP are created right here in Richmond County and strongly considers reader input as a factor. The RCDJ’s parent company is in Davidson, and company policy is formulated in Dayton, Ohio, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and other distant places.

        The money spent on supporting PeeDeePost.com stays right here in Richmond County.

        • Joe DeBerry

          And we want you to stay here ,you have more supporter’s on here everyday so don’t go no where .

  • triadwatch

    Well said , well said. Can I repost this on my blog at triadwatch?

  • triadwatch

    Here is a post and more on blog under public notice, http://triadwatch.blogspot.com/2015/03/nc-press-assoc-editorial-boards.html

    The bill needs to be renamed the N.C. Press Association Monopoly Protection Act

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