Editorial: Protect the public's right to know and support local reporting at the same time

You can find public notices in almost any newspaper. Small print, lots of words. They are there to provide the public with easy access to information about what corporations and government agencies are doing. They provide transparency.

A pair of bills (HB2483 and HB2533) currently making their way through the Arizona legislature would allow government agencies and corporations to post public notices on their own websites as opposed to in newspapers. If legislators pass the bills it would become much harder to keep track of what our elected officials, big corporations and other government agencies are up to.

Despite the small print, people do read public notices. The Arizona Newspapers Association surveyed the readership of its newspapers and received thousands of letters and emails about the value of public notice in newspapers. In Arizona, 27% of households do not have access to the Internet. Contractors, residents, civic groups, business owners, police agencies and the FBI read this content to find new business leads, what is happening in their community, who is coming in and starting a business, when government is holding hearings, how it is spending money and if there is fraud occurring. If these notices are buried on a government website, the public will never find them.

Not only that, the bills would be devastating to small weekly papers like the Williams-Grand Canyon News. Public notices keep smaller papers without a large advertising base afloat.

Without public notices, revenue would plunge at small weekly papers. Without money coming in, papers shut their doors.

Community papers are important. They are often the one and only source for local news. The Williams-Grand Canyon News regularly features stories about student achievement, sports wins and losses, new businesses and the successes of members of the community.

A good newspaper is a reflection of the community it serves. It informs readers, and is a place for folks to express their opinions. Sometimes stories make people laugh or cry. Or make them really angry.

That's a good thing.

The Williams-Grand Canyon News encourages our readers to contact their legislators in opposition to these two bills. Let them know public notices support community reporting in Williams and the Grand Canyon. Thanks for your support.

Brenda Barton (R), Office No. 111, (602) 926-4129; e-mail, bbarton@azleg.gov.

Bob Thorpe (R), Office No. 331, (602) 926-5219; e-mail, bthorpe@azleg.gov.

Write state legislators at Arizona State Capitol, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007; main switchboard, (800) 352-8404.

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