The Maryland Press Association’s April 23 op-ed attacking House Bill 1258, which seeks to reduce multi-million-dollar government subsidies to local newspapers with substantial monopoly power, was highly misleading.

The government mandates that both private businesses and government agencies place legal notices in local (mostly monopoly) newspapers. This notice system has become the most profitable part of local newspapers, hence it is as aggressively guarded by them as a female bear protecting her cubs.

HB 1258 seeks to reform this wasteful and socially harmful system for only a small fraction of legal ads, those related to publishing estate-related information for potential beneficiaries and creditors. In this case, the legal notice tax is effectively paid by estate beneficiaries, not the government, which passes the costs on to the beneficiaries.

Like the other groups that must pay for legal notices, these beneficiaries have no practical way to defend their interests, so they are an easy target to fund this industry subsidy.

The author claims the current system of legal notices has “served our communities well for decades.” But this has as much credibility as claiming that the old system of newspaper classified advertising, which has become obsolete because of far more efficient methods of advertising jobs, homes and other products, should be protected by government regulation.

The author contends that the current legal notice system fosters government “transparency” and “accountability,” but it has done the opposite. The system itself is incredibly opaque, with local newspapers refusing to publicly disclose their revenue from legal notices.

It is so poorly designed that it effectively hides the information from the people it is intended to benefit. And by making a local newspaper’s largest source of profits dependent on local government officials’ decisions, makes the media dependent on the very government officials it is supposed to hold accountable.

Jim Snider, Severna Park

Source: Snider, J.H., House Bill 1258 op-ed was misleading, Capital, May 5, 2024.

J.H. Snider Note:  I submitted this letter under the title, “Gov. Moore should sign HB 1258,” not the one the Capital ran it under.

I missed reading this letter when it ran on May 5 because it didn’t run in either the print or e-replica versions of the Capital, the latter of which is what I read. It only ran in the text-based online version–and as the last letter and only letter not included in the print or e-replica versions of the May 5 newspaper. Accordingly, I would suggest it was effectively buried for most Capital readers. I and many other readers read the print format version of the Capital because it provides more information at a glance about what the Capital believes is most important). For example, a front-page news story is much more frequently read than an inside-page news story because the front-page location signals the story’s importance.

Below is a URL to the e-replica version of the letters page in the Sunday Capital.…/default… 

I submitted this letter to the Capital on April 23, only hours after the Capital published the MDDC Press Association article. About ten days later, after my letter didn’t run and I hadn’t heard back from the Capital, I queried the letters editor and didn’t hear back. That may not be that unusual for a letters submission. But for article submissions, if one hasn’t heard back in about 72 hours or at most a week, one can reasonably assume it won’t be published.