Today in News Tech

Opposing views from the Public Notice debate in Rhode Island

In this episode, we are following up on our coverage of Rhode Island’s public notice legislation, and how its language represents a common thread, through many of the similar bills being considered across the country.

Local coverage from GOLOCALProv during the bill’s consideration in spring 2021, sheds light on two opposing arguments: that of the state, and that of the news publishing industry.

The article by Kate Nagle and the GoLocalProv team, “Legislation to End Mandated Charge for Legal Notices and Creation of Free State Site Gets Hearing,” quotes officials from government, lobbying firms, and civic organizations.

Advertisements for public hearings cost cities and towns tens of thousands of dollars a year. By decreasing advertisement costs, communities would be able to put those dollars directly back into services.

— Jordan Day, Policy Director, The League of Cities and Towns

A majority of households no longer subscribe to a print version of a daily newspaper. However, a website maintained by the Secretary of State, has different flaws when it is designed to serve as the sole method of public notification, rather than as a supplement to other forms of notice.

— Steve Brown, A.C.L.U. and Common Cause

Just in this past week, our newspapers contain 40 different legal and/or public notices representing all 10 of the communities we cover in Northern Rhode Island.

— Jamie Quinn, publisher of Valley Breeze, in response to critics claiming that local papers are unable to manage the amount of public notices as required by law.

The latest version of the bill, H-7312, was introduced in February 2022, and has, as of April 5, been recommended to be held “for further study.”

This bill, and many others across the country, are attempting to shift taxpayer dollars from local newspapers, (revenue received for publication of notices), back to governments, offering a no- or low-cost competing outlet for business and other local entities, to fulfill the legal requirements for disseminating public information.

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