On page 10 of this morning’s Wheeling Intelligencer is a story by Ogden’s political reporter, Steven Allen Adams. The story
West Virginia Press Association: Public Notice Change Would Lead to Less Transparency
details some of the debate surrounding a House bill that the Judiciary Committee eventually sent to a subcommittee for rework. Here is how Adams describes the bill:
The bill, House Bill 4025, calls for allowing public legal notices to be partially shifted away from publication in newspapers and instead allows them also to be placed onto a state website.
The story features the largest headline and the 2nd highest word count of any story in the morning paper. Around 300 of the story’s 792 words, however, quote those who are against the bill with most of those coming from Don Smith, who is the Executive Director of the West Virginia Press Association. Contrast that figure with the one sentence in the article that support the bill and the one that raises a question. In both cases, Smith gets the next few sentences to rebut the point.
As I read the article, I kept waiting to read what I thought was a critical statistic in all of this: how much money is spent each year on legal notices? While Adams does tell us that some counties make back more money than the cost of the notices, he never gives us a total cost figure. To that end, here’s the figure the Charleston Gazette-Mail quoted last month:
State, county, and municipal governments in West Virginia will spend $4.6 million on legal advertisements this year, according to a legislative audit released Monday.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail also covered this today and I think that they did a better job of reporting this story – at the least, they included the present system’s cost to taxpayers.
It should be obvious that both the G-M and the Ogden papers have much to gain from a continuation of the present system. Neither acknowledged, however, their vested interest in how this turns out. By the way, I see good points on both sides of this issue; I just wish I could read a “fair and balanced” report on the positives and negatives.
Finally, here is a prediction if the House of Delegates continues to pursue this: we will see an Ogden editorial that doesn't mention how Ogden profits from what's currently in place. Instead, the editorial will explain why the present system should continue because it’s what’s best for the state’s citizens.