State May Allow for Online Public Notices

Mar 31, 2011

Connecticut towns and cities are mandated by law to publish public notices in local newspapers.  But that could soon change.

The state legislature is working on a bill to reduce the length and frequency of the printed notices in an effort to save money.  But while the measure could hurt the bottom lines of state newspapers, state Senator Steve Cassano says that’s not his intent. “You know, it’s not our business to kill the newspapers and put them or put them out of business, but it is our obligation to try and find savings.  And so I think the print media recognizes that, they’re willing to compromise with us, so I think we can make something work that will benefit both of us.”  Jim Finley is the head of the Connecticut Conference of Muncipalities, which has been pushing a measure to scale those notices back because it could save taxpayers serious money. “With all due respect to the print newspapers, we know that legal notices are a big chunk of their income – the fact of the matter is that more and more people are looking for alternative news sources – blogs, radio, television. …we’re just asking for the state to give us some relief from this." Chris VanDeHoef is executive director of the Connecticut Daily Newspaper Association.  He says that online notices alone are not enough to keep the public informed.  “Not everybody has access to the Internet. Not everybody knows how to use the Internet.  If they do have access to it, not everybody knows where to look where to go." But VanDeHoef also says the obvious – for the newspapers, this is about money.  For those that rely heavily on public notices, it’s about survival. Take, for instance, Michael Schroeder -- the publisher of the New Britain Herald and the Bristol Press. “One of the main sources of revenue for that paper, above general advertising, is the advertising of notices.  And if you remove the complete section of revenue from his paper I’d imagine it would have a very damaging effect.” The bill that passed out of committee would allow all advertising to go online.  But Senator Cassano says a compromise that allows for some print and online will likely prevail.