Thursday, February 16, 2012

Newspapers: "It's Not About the Money"

The Arizona legislature is considering a bill, HB 2403, that would remove the print newspapers' monopoly on publishing public notices. Lynne LaMaster, who runs several eNews websites in Arizona, gave this speech today to the House Committee voting on the bill.
This entire experience has been very enlightening to me. I have learned far more than I ever imagined. 
One of the most fascinating items I learned, is that according to the Newspaper organizations, this really isn’t about the money. It’s about their duty as “watchdogs” to protect the public interest by publishing Public Notices in their respective newspapers. 
Therefore, if this measure doesn’t pass, may I suggest that an alternate piece of legislation be considered. This would be: 
- A law that would require newspapers to publish public notices in the same font and using the same white space as is on their home page featured story, at no additional charge beyond current prices to either the submitter or the subscriber.
- A law that would require them to offer translations into Spanish or other common languages of the community when appropriate, publishing in both English and the other language at no additional charge beyond the current prices.
- A law that would require better formatting, links that are easily pulled out of the content maps and photos where appropriate at no additional charge beyond the current prices. 
- A law that require them to publish public notices and take them to every home in the community whether or not the resident subscribes to the paper at no additional charge beyond the current prices. 
- A law that would require their database to be indexed and searchable by Google and the other search engines, completely open to the public, and advertised via Google Ad Words and other online measures, and this cost should not be passed on to member organizations, subscribers or submitters. 
I’d be willing to bet that if you were to consider a law such as the one I just outlined, you’d find the newspapers even more vociferously and vehemently opposed to that law than the one you’re considering here right now. Because we all know that it IS about the money and protecting their monopoly and power. 
Of course, if you were to allow online publications to publish public notices, we could do all these things automatically. Because we are more than a simply a newspaper online. We know the Internet and its capabilities and we know how to use it properly, efficiently and effectively.

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