Texas newspapers are protesting a proposed state law that would eliminate public notice from newspapers and save some money.
Freshman state Rep. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford wants to end the mandate that legal notices be posted in local newspapers -- and local newspapers don’t like it.
Describing himself as “a conservative Republican,” Stickland declares that he’s “interested in cutting government waste, not defending it.”
He cites a recent survey showing that fewer than a quarter of Americans now read newspapers on a daily basis.
“When surveys ask people where they get their news, whether it’s from television, radio, internet or newspapers, newspapers now come in dead last,” Stickland reports. “But that’s where the law, vehemently defended by newspaper corporate lobbyists, requires taxpayers to buy (public notice) ads. We’d reach more of the public by putting ads on milk cartons than in newspapers.”
Stickland isn’t promoting a milk-carton publishing rule, however. No, his proposed legislation would allow counties, cities, school districts, etc. to post public notices on websites controlled by those same government agencies, instead of buying ad space in papers.
Stickland clearly has a less cynical view of politicians and bureaucrats than he does of newspaper publishers, but is his great faith in public servants warranted?
If 75 percent of Americans no longer read a daily paper, how many will be proactive citizens and make a point of regularly visiting a multitude of government websites?
Of the few that do, how many will be able to determine if their public servants are being candid and current in their postings? How will they know that important notices weren’t changed or omitted?
Are the funds now spent on the advertising of public records a waste of money -- or a necessary investment in good government?
True, the Record has a financial interest in the continuation of the current policy. We and our fellow citizens (including Jonathan Stickland) also have a civic interest in preserving our freedoms, and that’s far more valuable.