Legal Ads Causing a Debate between Newspapers and Government

Legal Ads Causing a Debate between Newspapers and Government

03/17/2011

The newspaper industry was at odds with government Tuesday over the proposal allowing counties and municipalities to publish the required legal notices on their own websites.

Under state laws, the government bodies must publish government hearings, annexations, tax rates, bids and similar proceedings in newspapers to alert their own communities.

Leaders in the government have stated that the requirement has become uneconomical as more people look for information in the Internet.

However, representatives of newspapers argue that the legal notices published in newspapers are effective and contributes to democracy.

Sen. Ronald N. Young, a Democrat from Frederick and a former mayor of that city, proposed in his bill that any county or municipality should be allowed to post legal notices on their own website instead.

The bill also calls for these counties and municipalities to place a newspaper ad in advance explaining the switch. Governments would also have to provide free mail subscriptions of legal notices to residents.

Young has stated that, “Everybody wants government to be more efficient and remain transparent, and I think this allows them to do both.”

During a bill hearing last Tuesday, government officials said that by skipping newspaper ads, they would be able to save money.

Sidney A. Katz, the mayor of Gaithersburg, said that his city normally spends around $35,000 annually on legal ads. He also said that it is possible to distribute the same notices on a 1,700-subscriber city e-mail list. He went on to say that “This is not about the newspapers; this is about the money.”

WRITTEN BY:

blakeh@wellsdrew.com