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Government Notices May Bypass Newspapers

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David Sutta joined the CBS4 news team in April of 2007. As S...
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PALMETTO BAY (CBS4) – It’s something in every major newspaper that is often looked over: notices from local governments alerting you to meetings and issues in your community.

Now, an effort is underway to get rid of them. It will save money, but is it worth it?

For decades important city and county meetings have been announced in your newspaper. But in an age of the Internet, a Palmetto Bay politician is looking to shake things up.

“A lot of times you have people say I didn’t see it, or I didn’t know about it. And that’s because in Palmetto Bay, less than 20% of the people get the Miami Herald.” said Councilman Howard Tendrich.

Tendrich is proposing the state of Florida let them drop the paper ads in favor of advertising on the Village website and emails.

“Last year we spent over $17,000 in advertising ordinances and zoning matters in the paper and as you have more items the more expensive it becomes,” Tendrich explained.

Online advertising has already shown dramatic savings for the Village. Their printed quarterly newsletter used to cost up to $32,000 a year. The new monthly emailed version is just $500 (for the year).

Tendrich is up against the Florida Press Association (FPA), which represents the newspaper industry including the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel. This proposal would cost them a lot of money.

Speaking to CBS4 from his Tallahassee office, Dean Ridings, the President of the FPA, responded, “Florida’s newspapers are concerned about much more than revenue in their communities.”

The Florida Press Association worries about accessibility. According to a January survey done by Nielsen, they found 64 percent of people would not read public notices online.

Fifty-four percent of people over 65 don’t even have internet access. The same goes for significant amounts of minorities who would be excluded too.

Ridings explained newspapers push information in front of people. The model of people pulling materials from a government website is just not realistic.

“A person could be reading an article about their son’s baseball team, or the city council, or a good feature story and they could see by happenstance a zoning notice that’s in the paper that day,” Ridings said. “Very few people proactively go to the website of their municipal government looking for information.”

In an unofficial poll CBS4 discovered most people are split on online notices. Jenny Longmire said she could be bought though.

“Are they going to lower my taxes if they save the money?” Jenny asked CBS4.

The argument over public notices will likely not take place in Palmetto Bay, but rather Tallahassee. Many cities, and the newspaper industry, are expected to show up there next month to discuss this with state legislatures.

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