Newspapers are businesses just like any other.
Many of us who work at newspapers have families and children. We all pay city, state and federal taxes just like other businesses, we have bills to pay and we all want to continue putting a newspaper out not only because it’s our passion, but more importantly, because we believe that every community should have a newspaper. Newspapers provide valuable information to the public and newspapers also serve as watchdogs for their communities.
Newspapers have been around for hundreds of years and we believe they will continue to be around for a long time to come.
Sometimes, elected officials don’t like what was written about them in the newspaper, although the majority of the time what was written was correct. So, in return, they try to use their power to retaliate against newspapers by going after their revenue.
We’ve seen it the last several years when mainly Republican lawmakers in Frankfort have repeatedly introduced legislation to keep city and county legal notices out of newspapers and instead put them online. We’ve also seen certain elected officials introduce legislation that would take school notices out of newspapers and put them online only.
In reality, this has little to do with helping out school districts in the state, many of whom have very large operating budgets, but more about revenge against businesses these politicians see as their enemy. What is very odd about this, amongst other things, is that there are quite a few conservative weekly newspapers and daily newspapers in the state that have supported and continue to support much of these Republicans’ political agendas.
Recently, we learned that state Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Eastwood, introduced House Bill 195, which would allow local government entities to opt out of publishing public notice advertising in newspapers and allow them to be strictly printed online.
Miller is chair of the House State and Local Government Committee, so he can ensure his bill is sent to his own committee and be able to control its future. With Miller controlling this committee, it is highly likely that it will get out of committee and go to the House for a full vote.
It’s no coincidence that Miller filed this bill as it is widely known he is not a friend of newspapers, judging from comments he made a month or so ago in an interim committee hearing.
Miller would be wise to consider several things before he really pushes this legislation. One would be that a lot of people in our state don’t have internet access – information provided Friday by the Kentucky Press Association cites a recent study indicating more than 18 percent of Kentuckians lack broadband access – so how are they going to view these notices if they’re not published in the newspaper? What about hacking? If these public notice sites get hacked, these notices wouldn’t be available to the public for some time until the hack is fixed. Also, has Miller really given any real thought about the harm he could do to a lot of smaller newspapers in the state if this bill were to become law? His selfish actions could cause some of these newspapers to cut staff and perhaps endanger some whose margins are close to break-even.
Beyond that, newspapers function as a single source for residents to view public notices. But should Miller’s bill become law, “a resident would have to go to the website of each and every public agency to find out what’s going on in the county,” according to the KPA. Think about the number of school districts, public utilities, government departments and elected boards in a given community, and then imagine having to visit individual websites for each one in order to see all the public notices. It’s a convoluted mess that does not serve the public interest.
This would be a real shame, because not only would some people lose jobs and income, the affected communities would not be well-served by a newspaper less able to perform the important role our Founders envisioned.
We can ill afford to let this happen.
Miller’s bill is a very misguided one that could do great harm. The newspaper industry is somewhat like a fraternity, with a common bond among members who look out for one another. Miller needs to know that the newspaper industry in this state will not take his bill lying down. We will fight him with every ounce of our strength to see that his bill does not become law. We urge all legislators to adamantly oppose this horrible bill and ensure it does not become law.