The Aurora Beacon-News was the first to complain about a bill that would eliminate some legal advertising.
Now, the Bloomington Pantagraph has taken up the drumbeat.
In response, Rich Miller at his Capitol Fax Blog floated an idea that should shivers of terror down the backs of newspaper owners and managers. Talking about special interests complaining about their government funding being cut, Miller writes:
And the newspapers aren’t being much of a help, either. Balance that budget, state and locals, but don’t eat into our gravy train…
At a time when public officials should be championing greater openness in government, a bill is pending in Springfield that would do away with requirements that Illinois fire protection districts print public notices in general circulation newspapers.
Instead, appropriation and penalty ordinances could be posted on a Web site.
The state ought to just open a website for all public notices in Illinois and charge everyone a fraction of what newspapers do. But that would eat too much into their cash flow, so it’ll never happen.
One reader commented on the Pantagraph editorial like this:
Chadwick Snow said on: April 7, 2010, 8:20 am
No, this has nothing to do with newspaper interest in advertising revenue generated through public notices.
I think a portion of the Pantagraph’s position is driven precisely by that motive.
Circulation of newspapers continue to decline. Public notices are extremely expensive. Advertisers are continually seeking other marketing strategies and pulling their resources from newspapers.
Why shouldn’t government institutions also use more creative means to communicate with the public.
Web-based notices, billboards and public service announcements are just a few alternative strategies.
Would the newspaper publishing industry be as enthused about public notices within their publications if they were required to devote free space to government or not-for-profit agencies – similar to FCC requirements – to publish their notices?
I doubt it.