The proposed law on public communications threatens newspapers Pa

Public announcements are a valuable tool of our democracy because they provide a proper process for Americans who will be affected by government action and help make the democratic process more transparent.

But there are lawmakers in Pennsylvania who are trying, purposefully or not, to thwart this process and make it less transparent.

Newspapers across Pennsylvania are anxiously looking at legislation proposed by the State House that will make optional a long-standing requirement for municipalities to publish reports on public gatherings and legal announcements in the predominant local newspaper.

Bill 955, which is currently being considered by the House Committee on Local Government and possibly on the way to a vote to send it to the House of Representatives, will allow public authorities to choose from seven options to communicate their intention to do so. people’s business.

When HB955 passes, people will need to visit numerous websites to find posts that may relate to the sale of the property by foreclosing on a mortgage, changing the child’s name, opening an estate administration or a general notice. about filing a lawsuit if the defendant was not informed.

It is illogical to expect Pennsylvania residents to regularly and randomly search websites to determine if there are lawsuits that affect them, their business, other family members or friends. The probability that they will learn about such a lawsuit from the newspaper is much higher – either by seeing it for themselves or by learning from someone who read it in the newspaper.

Effectively moving ads from newspapers to the government website will reduce the opportunity for Pennsylvania residents to see such ads. Lawmakers should look for ways to expand the reach of public service, not narrow it.

Sun reports and legal announcements in the county’s top-secret newspaper have been the standard for generations to inform residents, voters, taxpayers, taxpayers and other stakeholders about the planned work of their elected officials.

The impetus for this proposal is, to a large extent, an attempt to unload districts, towns, counties, cities, school boards and other institutions engaged in public business to reduce their spending of public dollars on advertising in newspapers. It should not be assumed that some of the sponsoring legislators have a competitive relationship with newspapers in their districts.

Legislators are proposing to allow Sunshine ads to be placed in local newspapers and in newspapers commonly distributed by local governments, which tend to leave local publications such as this one among the elections.

Where the law does not correspond to genuine voter service, it is a proposal for a “publicly available local government website” and a “print publication distributed at the local level of at least four pages” as options for fulfilling statutory business responsibilities. in public light. These options do not take into account the long-established concept of “total turnover” in this market.

Advertising on the website disqualifies residents who do not use the technology. In many rural areas of Pennsylvania, a significant number of these stakeholders are senior citizens or residents of neighborhoods who are not served by adequate broadband and Internet access.

By its nature, a publication that occupies “at least four pages,” and, frankly, only four pages, is often targeted at a niche audience. Replacing a narrowly focused publication as a means of critical need, such as a government announcement, is a disservice to taxpayers who have historically relied on the wide appeal they recognize and expect in their established public newspaper.

Newspapers continue to occupy a large share of the audience among the mainstream media. Weekly newspapers reach more than 7 out of 10 Pennsylvania residents. (Ch https://panews

We do not need to look beyond the pandemic to see how our state communicates with the population through the media. The Commonwealth was reached through Google, Facebook and Twitter, not through local media companies in the state.

However, local newspapers and websites told people what was happening, how to get help and how to protect themselves. Those online companies – untested and professional organizations based on journalistic values ​​- did not do that. They did more harm to misinform the public with inaccurate information than anyone, but the state government supported them.

Newspapers have survived the advent of radio, television and the Internet and remain what many see as a historical record of their markets and communities. The newspaper remains the standard. Its reputation as a source for full and thorough coverage of the day’s events clearly makes it a source that residents – and local government agencies – must continue to rely on as the backbone of the democratic process it has always been.

We urge our readers to contact state representatives and ask them to oppose the House of Representatives bill 955.

– The Indiana Gazette

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