Your right to know? Or your favorite newspaper’s right to continue to exist?

newspaper-headerRepublicans in the General Assembly are once again taking aim at state laws requiring local governments to post public notices in local newspapers.

The Virginia Press Association is fighting back at the package of bills, which include Senate Bill 765 (proposed by Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr., R-Galax), House Bill 1426 (from Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol), House Bill 1373 (Del. Chris Head, R-Roanoke) and House Bill 1378 (Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg).

The bills would allow localities to sidestep using newspapers by giving them the option to use websites, radio and TV to post public notices. Also part of the frontal assault on VPA-member papers is a Local Government Mandate Review Task Force review of three recommendations to remove public notices from newspapers and post them on government websites, with legislation expected to follow.

The VPA is framing the debate as one involving your right to know, and no doubt you will see some form of that message on the editorial page of a VPA-member newspaper near you at some point in the near future.

But not to be overlooked is the impact on the bottom lines of those newspapers. VPA executive director Ginger Stanley told the journalism-news website Poynter.org in February that papers receive up to 5 percent of their advertising income from public notices. That same Poynter.org article put the spending on required public notices for a typical city or county at $20,000 a year.

So what the newspaper editorialists harp about as your right to know is also a big part of what helps your hometown newspaper continue to exist.

As more and more of us migrate from getting news in print to getting it from a multitude of sources most notably including the web, the battle lines are only going to become more hardened with time.


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