Capital News Article

Yeaager, Amanda, Anne Arundel County Council bill would move some public works notices online, June 5, 2017.

Snider Comment

“The Maryland Delaware D.C. Press Association, which advocates for local newspapers, plans to write a letter in opposition to the bill, according to the group’s executive director, Rebecca Snyder.”

Why is it that when I testify before the General Assembly on the urgent need to modernize Maryland’s public notice system the Capital never covers it.  But when the Maryland Delaware D.C. Press Association merely contemplates writing to preserve the current archaic system it is front page news? I’d trust the Capital’s report more if it got a quote (and a fair quote) from the bill’s sponsor and provided a link to the actual bill.  I am no fan of the legislation as it is reported here. But given that the Capital has a major dog in this fight and hasn’t in the past shied away from protecting this highly profitable source of government revenue (let alone advocating for a more efficient and effective public notice system), I think the burden is on it to bend over backwards to demonstrate newspaperly objectivity in reporting on this issue.

Capital Editorial

Our say: Public transparency not about easy choices, June 8, 2017

Snider Comment

I appreciate the Capital’s editorial writers responding to my critique of the news article that served as the basis of this editorial. The basic issue for the Capital, whether it’s a news story or editorial, is its credibility on this particular subject.

“Oh, boohoo.”

I agree; it is important for the public to have access to this type of information and that, as reported here, the County’s proposal sounds like a step back. But that doesn’t mean that printing notices in the Capital still isn’t a highly inefficient and ineffective way to get this information to the public.

“Yes, we have a business interest in the publication of public notices in the newspaper. But what we’re talking about here amounts to a handful of notices over the last year, so we’re not focusing on this issue out of self-interest.”

Strictly speaking, this may be correct, if only this small subset of government paid public notices is included. But political communication scholars have reported that many local newspapers now get a quarter of their profits from government paid for or mandated public notices. Indeed, given the disappearance of almost all other print classified advertising, it may now be the most profitable product a local newspaper provides. It’s not for no reason that the Capital and the local press association fights so hard for public notice government subsidies and refuse to disclose information about the magnitude of these subsidies. From my perspective, the biggest cost of this lobbying (and bullying) is the failure to implement modern, citizen-friendly public notice systems.

“Since when is the purpose of government making life easier for government employees?”

Since when does the Capital mention local government executive staff by name in order to criticize them? When it does, readers should infer that the issue is extraordinarily important. But to whom?