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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Without Pay, Will Newspapers Politicize Notices?

Monday’s Gazette editorial issued a ‘thumbs down” for a motion passed by the state legislature’s finance committee. The legislation is intended to end the requirement that state agencies and constitutional offices provide legal notices in the official state newspaper – the Wisconsin State Journal. Instead, the information will be posted on Web sites.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
It will include meetings to consider environmental impact, notices of proposed state constitutional amendments, requests for proposals and hearings on such things as airport standards, toll bridges and administrative rules.
But the legislation does not prohibit newspapers from publishing the notices.
JG Editorial Excerpt:
Why put the onus on the public with a change that suggests we trust government to put on Web sites information we need to know? That stomps on our state’s principle of open government.
Again, the legislation does not prohibit newspapers from publishing the notices. And newspapers want to know why people continue to look elsewhere for information? If the Gazette (and other newspapers) were just a little more honest in their approach, they wouldn’t try to mischaracterize this legislation as just more evidence the government can’t be trusted or pretend they (newspapers) publish notices out of a sense of public duty and informational access. It’s about the money.

The only minor drawback I can see to this legislation is how newspapers might scan over notices and only publish those that serve their own political agenda on an as-needed basis.

In an unrelated yet similar action taken by the City of Janesville, the city will no longer send residents mailed invitations to neighborhood listening sessions. The Gazette issued no editorial complaint against the city's decision.


G.G. said...

This is good legislation for the 21st century. Fiscal conservatives should love it! But they need to expand it to all cities and counties on information such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, etc.

RichE95 said...

I am a fiscal conservative and I do approve of it. I also understand the revenue squeeze on newspapers. My personal pet peeve is letters to the editor endorsing candidates for office. The vast majority are written by the candidates, family, and friends and as often as not given to someone else to submit as if they wrote it. I know that to be a fact because we have friends who do it. As a result, the newspaper has pretty much lost the legitimate revenue from candidates purchasing advertising in the newspaper. They buy yard signs instead. In one stroke the newspapers has bot made a mockery of the letter to the editor being the "Voice of the People" and has lost some of the revenue they need to survive in a new media age.

Lou Kaye said...

I don't have a problem with the letter writers, disclosures (or lack of) or their endorsement tactics. I can take it or leave it. I have a big problem with articles that have loosely constructed facts, storylines that are designed to coerce a specific response instead of inform and all the other typical language gimmicks and semantics employed by "journalists" and their editors. It goes without saying, newspapers are at a crossroads, and it is possible --- that the truth, transparency and clarity are all obsolete --- the best newspapers seem to be the first to fold.

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