Our View: Legal notices belong in newspaper

Apr. 14, 2013 @ 04:06 AM

We spread the word. That’s our job; the business of newspapers. Has been for centuries.
Whether it’s the latest happenings in your hometown, the big sale at a local business or the legal notices regarding the inner-workings of city and county governments, your newspaper has been the primary vehicle through which that information has been disseminated.
But under a bill in the N.C. Senate sponsored by Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, that could change. Wade, the first-term senator from Greensboro, is pushing a bill that would allow city and county governments in Guilford County and a few other designated areas of the state to publish legal notices required by law on their governmental websites instead of publishing them in the local newspaper.
Proponents of such legislation in recent years have said the move would save cities and counties money. Granted, this might save these governments some money, but what would be the cost of such action in terms of having an informed public?
Let us state clearly that newspapers make money through legal advertising. The legal notices cities and counties now are required to publish generate income for the newspapers in which they run. But this issue is about more than just newspaper balance sheets; it’s about getting the greatest amount of public information to the broadest audience possible.
We’re talking about legal notices that let you know a house in your neighborhood is being foreclosed upon, action that could impact the value of your own home. Notices to solicit bids for government projects that your company might want to bid on. Rezoning notices that tell you a nightclub wants to open up just down the street. Notices that someone who may owe you money has died or even a notice that someone is trying to end your parental rights.
We’re talking about information that is important to you and that is circulated widely throughout the community in your newspaper.
But this information isn’t just printed in the newspaper that lands on your doorstep or in your driveway. In many cases, these notices also are available on newspaper websites that are growing in popularity and are generating hundreds of thousands of views per day. Printing these notices in the local newspaper and on its website gets the message out to all, even those who don’t have Internet access.
In response to those concerned about the cost of newspaper legal advertising, in co-operation with the North Carolina Press Association, which represents newspapers statewide, three Wake County Republican legislators have introduced a bill that would set limits on rates newspapers could charge for legal advertising. The measure also requires that newspapers printing notices publish them on their websites at no extra charge. Additionally, this legislation, House Bill 723, applies to the entire state, the wider impact of which is that information that may not be published now on some newspaper websites would be required by law to be posted there — again, at no extra charge.
We encourage you to read the list below of legislators from this area and contact them to express your support for House Bill 723, the bill endorsed by the North Carolina Press Association. This bill would provide you with more, not less, access to government information that affects you.

LEGISLATORS

N.C. Senate
Sen. Gladys A. Robinson (D) (28th District), Pleasant Garden (336) 339-9542; Raleigh (919) 715-3042
Sen. Jerry Tillman (R) (29th District), Archdale (336) 431-5325; Raleigh (919) 733-5870
Sen. Phil Berger (R) (26th District), Eden (336) 623-5210; Raleigh (919) 733-5708
Sen. Trudy Wade (R) (27th District),  Greensboro (336) 323-6480; Raleigh (919) 733-5856
Sen. Stan Bingham (R) (33rd District), Denton (336) 859-0999;Raleigh (919) 733-5665

N.C. House of Representatives
Guilford
Rep. John Faircloth (R) (61st District), High Point, (336) 841-4237; Raleigh (919) 733-5877
Rep. Marcus Brandon (D) (60th District), High Point, (336) 987-3357; Raleigh (919) 733-5825
Rep. Jon Hardister (R) (59th District), Greensboro, (336) 404-8791; Raleigh (919) 733-5191
Rep. John Blust (R) (62nd District), Greensboro, (336) 662-0368; Raleigh (919) 733-5781
Rep. Mary “Pricey” Harrison (D) (57th District), Greensboro, (336) 292-1953; Raleigh (919) 733-5771
Rep. Alma Adams (D) (58th District), Greensboro, (336) 273-9280; Raleigh (919) 733-5902
Davidson
Rep. Rayne Brown (R) (81st District), Lexington, (336) 249-2608;  Raleigh (919) 715-0873
Rep. Jerry Dockham (R) (80th District), Denton, (336) 859-2181; Raleigh (919) 733-2526
Randolph
Rep. Allen Ray McNeil (R) (78th District), Asheboro, (336) 857-3633; Raleigh (919) 715-4946
Rep. Pat Hurley (R) (70th District), Asheboro, (336) 625-9210; Raleigh (919) 733-5865