Bill Allowing Towns to Post Legal Notices Online Advanced by N.J. Lawmakers
A bill that allows towns to post legal notices only online has been advanced by lawmakers in the state of New Jersey. The bill eliminates the requirement for governments, businesses, as well as citizens, to post legal notices in newspapers and instead permit their posting on government websites.
Sponsors of the bill, both Democrats and Republicans, said towns can save money if they post legal notices – which is required to inform the public about meetings, job opportunities, and other official business – on their websites instead of paying for advertising.
Leaders in the newspaper industry, concerned about losing millions in revenue from advertising, pointed out that there would be no savings since towns still need to spend money to maintain the websites.
They also mentioned that such move can potentially reduce government transparency. The newspaper industry also noted that the seniors and minorities, two populations likely to read newspapers rather than have internet access, will lose access to public information.
According to Richard Vezza, the publisher of The Star-Ledger, there is a political agenda to undermine print media by permitting public officials to withdraw legal advertising from newspapers whose reporting they do not like.
He told lawmakers, “What you’re looking for is a bunch of lapdogs that you control, not a bunch of watchdogs.” Vezza also said, “Some of us will be gone, some of us will be here. Those of us, who will be here, are going to be watchdogs.”
Sponsors of the bill maintain that they only want to save the taxpayer money.