Friday, June 27, 2008

Legal notices keep the public informed

There's a movement in the Pennsylvania Legislature to change the law requiring government entities to place notices of meetings and public hearings in newspapers with widespread readership in a particular area.

Some in the legislature want the legal advertisements or public notices to be posted online or to run in merchandisers.

It's clearly an effort by the Legislature to punish newspapers for their watchdog role of state government and to deny the public information about important decisions.

Read the editorial in The Mercury about the pending changes to the law designed to keep you in the dark.

1 comment:

beeobee said...


I know it is tough out there for newspapers. Change is tough. And change is the name of the game for the media. Revenues down and costs going up. But, come on, lighten up a little, SB 1087 will not put The Mercury out of business and it might help improve communications with the constituents of government.

As goes that famous quote “I knew John Kennedy and your no John Kennedy”. I read the bill and the editorial is not the bill! I hope you will take the time to read it yourself.

I do not defend the bill in total in its present form. I would make some changes to it.
Nevertheless, let us agree on the basis-underlying premise, current method and form of communication of government actions is flawed.

The open records legislation was an attempt to improve such communications. It did not go far enough. And, in my judgment, the media did not push hard enough to make the case for a better bill, but it is an improvement over what was done previously.

Unless I am total na├»ve, this bill is another attempt by some of our more enlightened legislators to improve how government communicates to its constituents. Today communications has changed significantly. But I don’t need to tell a newspaper person that fact. Such change is driving newspapers to change how they do business, i.e. web pages, on-line newspapers, etc. In addition, communication with constituents should change as well.

First, I do agree that today, not all persons have or use web based communication. Therefore, I favor continued use of local papers to convey government actions. But that isn’t where it is at today and it certainly will not be were it is at in the future. Government should communicate with its constituent via the web as well. And it should be a uniform requirement for all governments to do so. It should be a “may” requirement as in the current bill.

Web based communication allow a person to receive their information in ways which print media cannot duplicate. It can be delivered more conveniently. It can be delivered more timely. It can be delivered in a form, which allows it to be sliced and diced in ways suited to the read. It can be delivered only when it contains information that the reader desires to see. It can be stored and search to meet the requirements of the reader. It empowers the reader.

But you know that already. That is why the print media must change and adapt to the new reality of communication methods. That is why this legislation should be improved and passed!

Stand up and make it better. But stand down and let it pass. As it’s time is now.