Editorial: Informed public gets the victory

May. 29, 2013 @ 01:45 PM

A recent story from The Associated Press indicated the N.C. Press Association was claiming a battle victory in keeping government notices in newspapers.

While the NCPA led the fight, of which the publisher and editor of Your Favorite Good Morning Newspaper participated, we’d happily argue the NCPA was not a winner but merely a voice and an instrument.

The winner was the people.

It is the right to have an informed public that led Dispatch representatives to run multiple advertisements on our pages about the public notices bills, and to make phone calls and send emails to our respective elected officials within the House of Representatives and the Senate in Raleigh.

Pivotal was an amendment to House Bill 755 from Rep. Marilyn Avila, a Republican from Wake County. She pushed language that makes up HB 723, the NCPA-backed compromise bill that would keep notices in newspapers while not charging government entities extra for website publication.

The legislation is similar to that already adopted by other states, and keeps notices available to the most eyes.

Other bills involving public notices have either gone back to committee, or are idling because they didn’t make it to crossover.

One side argued the digital age renders newspapers no longer the chief source of information. The other side spoke of technology gaps in rural counties, which number 85 of 100 in our state, and the public’s right to know.

Henderson County’s Chuck McGrady, a Republican and sponsor of two bills involving public notices, said HB 723 is not a compromise. He called it a monopoly. He was also quoted pointing out newspapers are printed by the millions.

Bet the farm, though, that millions are not creating traffic on government websites where lawmakers want to put public notices. Nor do we believe they are likely to sign up for first-class mail notices like McGrady offers.

But as McGrady points out, millions of newspapers are being printed. And more of them are focused more than ever on local events.

Stands only to reason, if there is a government notice the public needs to see, the best opportunity remains with the local newspaper and its website.

And that’s a win for the people.