There never really was any mystery about why Republican Sen. Trudy Wade of Guilford County sponsored the original bill to allow website-only publication of legal notices, thus taking the business away from newspapers, where they have traditionally had to be published.
Sure, the notices are a source of revenue for newspapers, but they serve a valid purpose of providing a clear, non-governmental place for those in search of legal information regarding suits or debt obligations, etc., and the longstanding tradition is valuable as well to those who for whatever reason don’t have convenient access to computers.
In addition, allowing governments, for example, to put the information only on their websites opens the possibility – the possibility not necessarily the likelihood – that local governments could somehow limit access without answering to anyone.
This longstanding policy was of benefit to people, and of harm to no one. But then Wade got mad at being criticized in the state’s press, so she legislated against newspapers. Her bill now has re-emerged in a final form that’s on the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper for signature as part of a bill addressing worker’s compensation issues.
And guess what? The website-only option now would be limited to Guilford County and its municipalities.
“This is not a pilot program,” said Rep. Amos Quick, a Greensboro Democrat. “This is a target program. The target is the News & Record newspaper of my hometown, Greensboro.”
Here in Bladen County, the potential for removing legal notices from the Bladen Journal would be real if this bill is allowed to get a foothold anywhere in the state. For rural counties like ours, especially, not everyone has access to a computer on a regular basis — but everyone has access to the newspaper.
The governor should stand in the way of this kind of bullying. For that matter, Wade’s colleagues shouldn’t have stood for it. It’s a low point in this edition of the General Assembly.
The North Carolina Press Association opposes it, and so should you.
— The News & Observer initiated this editorial
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” (Thomas Jefferson)