Friday, July 07, 2017

N.C. passes bill to move public notice from newspapers to government websites in one county

The North Carolina legislature has passed a bill that moves public notices from local newspapers to government websites in a single county, a move some say makes the government less transparent and targets the local newspaper.

State Sen. Trudy Wade
Republican Sen. Trudy Wade of Greensboro, the seat of Guilford County, has tried to pass similar laws twice before, but succeeded this time by narrowing the scope of the bill, creating it as a "pilot program" in the county only, and attaching it to a separate measure she had introduced that declares that newspapers carriers cannot be presumed to be independent contractors, reports the Public Notice Resource Center.

Under the bill, which will become law by July 30 if not vetoed, court-ordered legal notices will be published on the county website instead of in the local newspaper, the Greensboro News & Record. Other local officials may decide whether to publish their notices in the newspaper or on their own websites instead, according to the article. The bill also allows the county government to charge $10 to $450 for notices published on its site.

Some think Wade wanted to hurt the Greensboro paper for what she feels is unfair news coverage. Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro says that Wade held up other pending Senate bills in order to get her bill passed. "I do think it's her vendetta against the News and Record," he told the paper's Taft Wireback.

Not so, Wade told Wireback: "It really doesn't have anything to do with the News and Record. It has to do with making sure the citizens have free access to legal notices. To be honest with you, technology changes. This is just another example of changing technology and people using that technology."

News & Record Publisher and Editor Daniel Finnegan worries that Guilford County residents will be less likely to see important notices that may affect their lives, saying "We reach far more people with the combination of our newspaper and website -- more than 100,000 per day -- than government websites."

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