Don Smith

Don Smith

A new government report presented to the West Virginia Legislature recommends removing public notices from your community newspaper and placing them on a state government website to reduce state spending.

Reducing government spending is important, but it should not come at the expense of an informed public.

In West Virginia today, the most cost-effective method of ensuring local residents are notified of planned government actions and spending is placing a public notice in the community’s local newspaper.

In 2019, state government’s total spending budget for all state programs is $4.7 billion.

The amount of that total budget spent to keep local residents informed is just $2.55 per person, per year. Based on the state report, West Virginia government spending for public notice averages $2.55 per person, per year to have public notices in the local newspapers where you can easily find and see them.

That seems a very cost-effective method, especially when the newspaper industry already provides free internet distribution in many areas.

The report shows contempt for public notice, a shocking lack of awareness of living conditions outside of Charleston, and a self-serving view on state government spending.

The recommendations in this report would:

Require you to search online each day for public notices.

Require you to understand legal titles.

Require your time to load each link on a government website.

Require our city and county officials to give up control of public notice to a state agency but to retain the responsibility, complaints and lawsuits.

Ignore that internet service is non-existent in many areas and unreliable in others.

Ignore that many residents would find the online search too challenging.

Ignore the fact that not all residents have access to a computer and high speed internet.

Eliminate the “community” awareness created by publication in the newspaper.

Eliminate government transparency and accountability.

Eliminate county and city revenue.

The report also misrepresents the value of West Virginia newspapers, which have an economic presence in all 55 counties and growing readership now with print and online editions.

Community newspapers are the marketplace of information in West Virginia, not a government website.

From birth to death and each step in between, community newspapers document life and history in our towns. Your newspaper features local high school sports, city council, church events, community dinners and obituaries.

The value of community newspaper publication is real. Businesses pay for advertising in local newspapers for a reason: That’s where local people look for news and information.

Keep public notice in the community newspapers so the community members can see it.

Don Smith is executive director of the West Virginia Press Association.

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