TAKE IT TO THE WEB: That's the aim of legislation that would end mandatory purchase of several types of government legal advertising.
The hits keep on coming. Here's another new bill
from Rep. Karilyn Brown, a Sherwood Republican, to end mandatory purchase of newspaper legal ads for a wide range of city and county notices. Instead, they could publish the notices on a government website.
Earlier today, I had some exchanges on Twitter with an employee of the state auditor's office. He was bragging about how much better things had gone for the auditor since the office was released from mandatory newspaper purchase of advertising of unclaimed property and had gone to web promotion of the list.
Understand this issue is of scant meaning to the Arkansas Times
. We've never had any significant legal advertising.
But this is an issue nationally and newspapers — already mortally wounded by declining advertising and circulation as readers migrate to the web — have been fighting mightily to hang on lucrative legal advertising, much of it written into law in the days when newspapers had real clout.
Has doomsday arrived in Arkansas for this advertising? Govermennts argue that they save money and get better exposure on the web. Newspapers argue that there's nothing like newspaper exposure.
I do know this: The press lobby doesn't have much power these days. See the steady stream of bills by which legislators are not only ripping up the Freedom of Information Act but doing it both gleefully and spitefully because of their poorly concealed animus toward the media. They forget that the FOI — and legal advertising — should be first decided based on public interest, not feelings about newspapers.
But I'd be forced to confess that I see some merit in arguments on moving advertising on-line to free government sites. (Let's be sure, though, we don't get snookered by high-dollar digital contractors who turn government work into profit-making enterprises that put anything newspapers have done in the shade.)
UPDATE: Tom Larimer of the Arkansas Press Association is calling out the troops (such as they exist these days)
If you have never contacted your senator or representative, do it NOW on HB 1836. Even if you have made contact before, please do it again NOW. Reference HB 1836 when making your contacts. The sponsor is Rep. Karilyn Brown of Sherwood.
This bill from the Association of Arkansas Counties and the Municipal League would remove the statutory requirement for cities and counties to publish their ordinances in a newspaper of general circulation in the county. Yes, NO more ordinances.
Instead, they would be published on a website and posted in three public places. If this legislation becomes law, it would represent a significant loss of revenue for Arkansas newspapers.