Sunday, February 10, 2019

Newspapers also fight public-notice battles at the local level, in states that give local governments leeway on 'legal ads'

Meg Morgan Norris at The Garden City News
(New York Times photo by Uli Seit)
As newspapers fight in state legislatures to keep the public notices that provide a greater share of their shrinking revenue, some are losing local battles. "There are plenty of examples of government officials using the notices to try to strong-arm newspapers over their coverage," The New York Times reports.

Reporter Corey Kilgannon's object example is Garden City, population 23,000, on Long Island, where the town board recently voted to move its public notices from The Garden City News to The Garden City Life, a chain-owned paper with a circulation about one-fourth that of the locally owned News. LIke many states, New York leaves it up to local governments to determine whether papers meet criteria for placement of public-notice advertising.

News Editor and Publisher Meg Morgan Norris "has not exactly curried favor with the board or the mayor: Her editorials have accused them of conducting much of the village’s business in private," and the paper has offered "tough coverage, most notably the handling of the redevelopment" of a landmark school, Kilgannon reports.

The city hasn't commented on its move, but "said it might cut off Ms. Norris from the news it provides each week for listings, calendars and columns on senior issues, parks and libraries," Kilgannon writes. "It reflects the existential crisis engulfing the newspaper industry. As print advertising dries up, public notices — dry as their prose may be — provide an increasingly vital source of revenue that is crucial to the survival of local newspapers," but that local officials all over the country are asking state legislators to reduce.

Richard Karpel, executive director of the Public Notice Resource Center, told Kilgannon, “Eliminating newspaper notices would cripple many newspapers It would reduce the already shrinking profit margins of most large papers and newspaper chains, and it would completely obliterate smaller newspapers, especially those that publish in rural areas.”

At the local level, where the anti-journalism views of President Trump are increasingly felt, publishers may already be pulling their punches for fear of retaliation from official whim. One who isn't is Richard Abel, publisher of the The Westmore News in Westchester County, Kilgannon reports: Abel "said an official from the Village of Rye Brook threatened to divert its public notices and asked officials in neighboring municipalities to do the same, unless he fired a critical columnist. Mr. Abel refused and ran a column scolding the officials for trying to squash them 'via economic sanctions.' The villages never pulled the ads, he said. 'I told them what to do with their notices,' Mr. Abel said. 'If I bend for that, then they own me. I’d rather go out of business than be subservient to them.'"

1 comment:

Howard Owens said...

This is what happens when news orgs come to depend on government subsidies.