Speaking Personally

In defense of legal notices in newspapers – they need it
Why did you buy the newspaper in your hands?
Whether you are a subscriber or you picked up this copy from a newsstand, the last answer I would suspect is because of the legal notices inside. Of course not, right? I work hard to put original content on every page of this publication – from the solid, local reporting to the original columns to the police blotters, I flatter myself that what we print every week is content you want. More than 2,000 people each week seem to agree. 
When you buy this paper, you’re also getting our legal notices. In terms of information delivery, there is no better place for these notices than local newspapers. Like a pill tucked in jelly, this vital information gets into the hands of people who might never seek it out otherwise. Last week, we had the delinquent tax sale information. This week, there is tax levy information for three school districts and the city of Willow Springs. You may not have picked up this paper to get information on your local tax rate, but you get it all the same. 
What you may not know is these legal notices are under constant attack in Jefferson City. Every year that I have operated this newspaper, I have made calls to our representatives in the Missouri House and Senate in defense of legal notices. The last couple of years, new legislation has chipped away at them.
Those who seek to move away from printing notices in newspapers cite the expense to the taxpayer and the declining relevance of print media. In Missouri’s metropolitan areas, papers with a circulation of 20,000 do charge quite a lot for their notices. Some lawmakers say this information can and should be posted online free for all to access. And so it should. But it should not be removed from newspapers, especially not in rural Missouri.  
My question is – if online is the only place to find it, who would look for it? Why wouldn’t we keep this information wrapped up in the content people are already reading?
My personal politics will defend saving taxpayer dollars any day of the week. My profession has made it clear to me how very difficult it can be to get the public’s attention, even with information they really ought to have. Balancing these two thoughts has convinced me the investment is worth it. Newspapers are an information delivery service that can and should compete among themselves to win government contracts. 
Our nation will prosper with a more informed electorate. Why would we tuck away important information on a forgotten tab of a government website? When is the last time it occurred to you to look up Howell County’s financial statement? Or the unclaimed property list from the Secretary of State’s office? If you’re a cover-to-cover reader of my paper, you have seen both this year. 
One final consideration is the loss of legal notices in newspapers could be a death-dealing blow to this industry. State statutes regulate how much we can charge for notices, and in this paper, they appear at a lower price point than even our classified ads. For most small-town papers, legals represent a significant revenue stream that would be hard to replace in a small-town economy. 
Legal notices are important for the newspaper industry, and I am suggesting they are important to newspaper readers too. Until someone figures out how to put legal notices in a meme or Tik Tok, newspapers are, hands down, the best way to get this information to the most people. 
If you agree, I strongly encourage you to reach out to your local representative in Jefferson City in defense of keeping legal notices in newspapers. We work hard to keep you informed. You deserve to receive this information in the same place you get your news – right here in these pages. 
Representative David Evans (R-154) can be reached at 573-751-1455, and Senator Karla Eslinger (R-33) can be reached at 573-751-1882.
Content Paywall Trunction: 

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

Comment Here