Saturday, February 23, 2008

Trenton Makes (dumb rules) -- Newspapers Take (it on the chin)

An area of concern for the advertising and PR community in New Jersey is a bill that would no longer require that legal notices be placed in newspapers around the state. The measure (A-1083), recently passed unanimously in the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee, would allow legal notices to be placed on official government websites, instead of in newspapers, as is currently required.

Passage of this bill would further weaken the financial health of newspapers -- at a time when many are already on life support. In addition, it is argued that Internet use is by no means universal, and there exists a significant population (mostly older) that does not yet have Internet access.

Since the state, also by law, sets the rates that newspapers can charge for this “legal advertising” -- at rates that have not changed since 1983 (when Ronald Reagan was President and many of us were humming Duran Duran’s “Rio”), the savings to the state and municipalities would not be as dramatic as you might at first think.

Given all of that, I believe there is no good reason that legal notices should not continue to be placed in newspapers and at the same time, on government websites. After all, shouldn't we be demanding MORE government transparency, and not less?

Perhaps there will come a day when legal advertising exclusively on government websites will make sense. I don't believe that time has arrived.

In a bizarre twist – even for New Jersey – at the same time that the government is seeking to save money by eliminating the requirement to post legal notices in newspapers, two bills, A 1092 and A-1106, would require newspapers to run certain political advertising free of charge.

Will SOMEONE in Trenton PLEASE wake up?

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