Change is inevitable for the post office…..and newspapers

The Neptune Nudniks got one right today. 

In their editorial, Change inevitable for post office, The Asbury Park Press editorial board accurately spells out how the Internet and digital technology has changed the economics of information delivery, making the United States Postal Service obsolete and insolvent.  

The post office is undergoing a major downsizing. Appropriately so because people are just not using it they way we used to.  Electronic exchange of documents and information is just far more efficient than physically moving paper across town or across the country.

The Press concludes that, “we cannot subsidize what should be a self-sustaining entity any more than we could subsidize the buggy whip industry at the turn of the last century.”

That unassailable reasoning should also be applied to the subsidies the newspaper industry receives in the form of state mandated legal and public notices advertising.

Classified advertisings in newspapers has gone the way of the buggy whip industry. It has been replaced by craigslist, ebay, autotrader.com, realtor.com, realtytrac.com, and countless other websites.  The once thick classified sections of newspapers are now four or five pages daily, half of which is government compelled legal and public notices.

Bi-partisan legislation, The Electronic Publication Of Legal Notices Act, passed the State Senate in July of 2010 and the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee in February of this year.  Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver has blocked the bill from being voted on by the full Assembly.

With millions of dollars in government mandated subsidies at stake, the newspaper industry came out in force to lobby against the bill arguing that legal notices on government websites instead of in newspapers really wouldn’t save the government money, that poor people without computers would not have access to the vital information( do poor people attend foreclosure auctions and zoning board hearings?) and that elected officials could use the power to withhold legal notice advertisements to punish newspapers for unfavorable news coverage.  The newspaper publishers said that their role as unbiased watchdogs would be compromised.

The assertion that newspapers fill the role of unbiased watchdogs is laughable.   Yesterday’s Star Ledger editorial laying out a strategy for Democrats to counter Governor Christie’s effective Town Hall meetings, along with the paper’s slanted “news” coverage of Christie’s meetings eariler in the week is just one recent example of how “newspapers” are just as biased as this or any other blog.

But the publishers’ argument that allowing newspaper advertising and/or Internet advertising on governement websites of Legal Notices gives government officials the power to punish newspapers whose coverage they don’t approve of (or to reward newspapers for coverage they do approve of) has merit.

That potential for abuse could be fixed by amending the Electronic Publication Of Legal Notices Act to require that legal notices be published only on government websites.  Reasonable fees for ads that are now paid to newspapers by planning and zoning applicants, foreclosing lenders and other private interests that are compelled to advertise could be collected by the municipalities to offset the cost of maintaining their websites and as a new source of much needed revenue.

The rest of New Jersey’s traditional media should embrace The Asbury Park Press’s outstanding reasoning, as it applies to the post office, and apply it to themselves in the interests of the public good. They should let Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver off the hook and suggest she post The Electronic Publication Of Legal Notices Act for a vote before the full Assembly where their friends in the chamber should amend the bill to prohibit governments from spending taxpayers dollars on legal notice advertising and eliminate the requirement that private interests pay to advertise anywhere other than on a government website.

Of course, the 1st amendment would allow the newspapers to continue publishing the notices, as a public service, or as a private sector revenue driven profit center.

Posted: September 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: NJ Media, NJ State Legislature | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

5 Comments on “Change is inevitable for the post office…..and newspapers”

  1. Mr. Pot meet Mr. Kettle said at 9:47 am on September 21st, 2011:

    It’s cute watching Art claim that someone else’s news coverage of Chris Christie is “slanted.” No one works harder to earn those gubernatorial knees pads than does Art Gallagher.

  2. ArtGallagher said at 10:01 am on September 21st, 2011:

    Mr. Pot meet Mr. Kettle,

    I deleted the link to the Tyson video, because I wanted to and because I can.

    You must have missed this phrased, “is just one recent example of how “newspapers” are just as biased as this or any other blog.”

    You should read more carefully and ask someone patient to explain things you don’t understand.

  3. Dan Jacobson said at 10:17 am on September 21st, 2011:

    Great post, Art. This is what drives me crazy about the Asbury Park Press. They will attack anyone and everyone for misusing even one cent of the public fisc, but when it comes to their own racket at taxpayers expense — the public notices that taxpayers must pay — they’re silent. In fact, several years ago they even threatened two Monmouth County legislators by name in an editorial if they dared vote to allow municipalities just the option of posting notices on-line.

    You’re dead-on with the answer: It should be required these notices be posted on line. There shouldn’t even be an option. Further, it should be on a state maintained website for publication of notices at all levels of government in a format for easy searching and archiving. Not only would that save millions annually, but it would dramatically increase public access to information — including everything from notices of public bids to planning board agendas. From action taken by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to the Loch Arbour Village Board of Trustees. The current system of notices in newspapers doesn’t even come close to providing that.

    In addition, notices involving foreclosures should be on-line on a website maintained by the state judiciary. Newspapers have no right profiting off the foreclosure crisis. And a greater range of the public should have access to these notices to increase the amount that could be gained at an auction –helping the banks to minimize losses, and maximizing the price to help lift a depressed real estate market. All important goals for the general public.

    You bet if this issue involved anyone else, the Asbury Park Press would be all over it. Democrat or Republican. No question.

    And as much as I love Diane Gooch, I have to take a shot at her here. While she and husband Mickey claim to be a fiscal conservatives, their Two River Times newspapers also profit off all these public notices at taxpayer expense. And they’re profiting off the foreclosure crisis with notices of sheriff sales. The Gooches should do the right thing and announce their paper will publish such notices at no cost as a public service to taxpayers, or at just the cost to their paper, which is minimal.

    Of course, I remain willing to discuss this issue with Diane any time, anywhere. If you get my drift…

    Well done, Art.

    Dan Jacobson

  4. FredMark said at 1:46 pm on September 21st, 2011:

    Mr. Gallagher has nailed this issue. I love the comparison with the post office. It could not be more appropriate. And Dan I must agree with Dan Jacobson although not knowing the background, is Mr. Jacobson for this because his competitor has been named the designated publication of record in their jurisdiction.

    It is so sad that formerly independent newspapers use precious editorial space to admittedly protect their own business. It is nothing more than a bully pulpit. If the trucking industry wanted to use that space to lobby for their own industry, this newspaper would not print it citing it as commercialization. There is a site that is INDEPENDENT, that PROVIDES E-MAILED ALERTS, MAPS TO ZONING ADDRESSES, SCHEDULES FOR HEARINGS, and AFFIDAVITS TO PROVE THAT NOTICED PUBLISHED. http://free-public-notice.com/state-county/about-us . And instead of tens of thousands of dollars per year, they charge $2,000 per year for as many notices as you want aggregately saving the local governments of this state millions. Government does belong to the public not to the newspapers. We all now understand despite what newspapers provide, that their time has passed and our state laws should move with the times. There are many more citizens with access to the internet than there are who subscribe to newspapers. When the market works everyone gains. Look at what happened when Craig’s List offered a better service for much less money. Classified Advertising left the newspaper to go on line. Same with public notices.
    This issue is playing out in states nationwide. This blog is covering it well. http://legal-notice.org/blog .

  5. Dan Jacobson said at 2:23 pm on September 21st, 2011:


    Since my paper is free, it could not publish these notices — which can only be placed in a paper of paid circulation — so it’s not an issue of some competitor being named over us. It’s the hypocrisy of it from the mainstream media that I can’t stand. Art nailed it.

    Dan Jacobson