Spradlin: Getting Jesus to convert to Christianity

Early Tuesday afternoon in Raleigh, state lawmakers, including Sen. Norman Sanderson and Rep. Marilyn Avila, joined together to announce that Senate Bill 129 is a good bill — one that takes into consideration all of the poor and rural residents of North Carolina along with their city-dwelling, wealthy counterparts.

Excuse me while I puke at the absurdity of these lawmakers believing their own lies and passing them on to you. This bill will not save any significant taxpayer money, the bill has nothing to do with transparency and it is not in your best interest.

sunshine_week_logoThe issue is regarding the requirement to publish legal notices in traditional print newspapers. The Pee Dee Post has written on this issue in recent days in an effort to provide clarity — and accuracy — to the issue for the general public. Because you’re not getting clarity or accuracy from people like Sanderson, Avila or traditional print newspapers like the Richmond County Daily Journal.

* March 7: Public notice issue continues to evolve
* March 16: A misguided attempt at transparency

Corey Friedman, content manger at the Richmond County Daily Journal, traveled to the state capital to cover the news conference. This is what I call preaching to the choir. Let’s follow the money: Sanderson has SB 129. Avila crossfiled HB 156. Both are heavily supported by the North Carolina Press Association. Newspapers like the Daily Journal and editors like Friedman play a significant role in the North Carolina Press Association. Friedman was recently elected to serve on the NCPA’s board of directors. Both Sanderson and Avila have been recognized by the NCPA in recent years and bestowed fancy awards that sound real good in the press.

Unfortunately, even the Associated Press is not immune to politics — or a desire for money. Leaders at the Associated Press, a wire service that produces stories about state and national events that reporters from your local papers generally can’t cover, know that their salaries are paid for by fee-paying traditional print newspapers.

So even when a better compromise has been offered than anything in SB 129 or HB 156, the AP isn’t buying in and reporters there certainly won’t be assigned to write about it — even if it’s newsworthy. And when NCPA-member reports are assigned to write about the positions of NCPA-backed lawmakers, it’s not journalism. It’s activism. It’s your good ole’ public relations machine at its finest — working for things that are not in your best interest.

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;

* Supporting locally owned and operated businesses;

* Increase transparency and public participation by engaging a larger audience;

* 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.

Not about transparency

“To me, this is, always has been and always will be a point of transparency,” Sanderson told the Daily Journal.

Oh, if only that were true. If that were true, Sanderson would support a better compromise that would eliminate the phrase “paid subscribers” from the law and allow governments to choose whether public notices are published in the newspapers and read by the very few who still pay for them or can be published in free distribution newspapers — which have a much higher circulation rate in any jurisdiction they are delivered compared to those relying on paid subscribers.

The fact that Sanderson and Avila scheduled this news conference during Sunshine Week is nauseating. Sunshine Week is a time intended to shed light on the very real struggles members of the media and general public alike face when trying to obtain public documents — documents for which the public is already paying — without months-long delays or gouging fees. It’s about transparency Neither SB 129 and HB 156 is about transparency; it’s about the you-scratch-my-back-I’ll scratch-yours politics that have plagued North Carolina and the rest of America — and cost an untold amount of taxpayer dollars — since online news outlets became a reality.

McInnis was not at the scheduled news conference but did offer the Daily Journal this quote:

“I strongly support the public’s right to know what is going on in their government,” said McInnis. “By requiring public notices to be in the local newspaper and newspaper websites, every citizen will have access to such notices. I believe that this bill will serve the government and the public sufficiently.”

The freshman Republican senator is partially right and partially wrong in his statement. I believe he truly supports the public’s right to know. However, he not only misses the bullseye but the entire target when he said that “every citizen will have access to such notices” if they are required to be published in the local paid print newspaper of record and corresponding newspaper websites.

That’s just not true. In this case, industry experts and lawmakers like McInnis fail to take into consideration the ever-declining number of paid subscribers to local print newspapers. And as time passes, more and more of these same newspapers will have mandatory paywalls on their websites (if they don’t already).

Those newspapers claim that one-fifth of North Carolinians don’t have access to the Internet. That means 80 percent do, and you can bet your bottom dollar that no paid subscriber newspaper in this state enjoys an 80 percent subcribership in its market.

Having lawmakers like Sanderson and Avila preach to journalists like Friedman is kind of like trying to get Jesus to convert to Christianity: He’s already there, and preaching the same message again and again isn’t going to strengthen His resolve. But Christianity or another faith, most would argue, is in your best interest. What’s offered in SB 129 and HB 156 is not.

Kevin Spradlin is managing editor of The Pee Dee Post. He can be reached at 910-331-4130 or peedeepost@gmail.com.

Filed in: Business, Latest Headlines, Opinion

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