A bill that would put public notices online, and would decrease the ad revenue of newspapers, has gotten an inordinate amount of attention. It’s become such a hot-button that the bill was pulled off the floor and sent back to House Rules, where bills like this go to die.
A little background: As it is, state agencies and some local governments are required to publish some legal notices, such as meetings, foreclosures, and certain court notices. They do so often in their local newspapers. A bill introduced by Rep. Mike Hawker would allow certain notices, such as housing foreclosure notices, to be put online. Legal notices from state agencies would not be affected, but some of those agencies would be allowed to put some reports, like annual reports, online instead of in print. Allowing Anchorage to put foreclosure notices online would save the city about $20,000, the muni said. Annual reports cost the state about $1.6 million in 2011. Both Anchorage and the Alaska Municipal League wrote letters in support of the bill.
It’s pretty innocuous on the face of it. However, if it passed and worked well, it would likely lead to all state agency notices bypassing newspapers. Then, the situation wouldn’t be so innocuous and it would very much effect the revenue of newspapers.
At a press conference, Anchorage Daily News reporter Rich Mauer accused Hawker of introducing the bill in order to seek retribution on the paper for its coverage of Hawker’s roll in the Legislative Office Building. Hawker called the charged ludicrous.
Rep. Ben Nageak of Barrow, who also supported the bill, was also accused of trying to get retribution on the Daily News, something that he denied also. Jenny Canfield, a Juneau Empire reporter got caught in the mess and was fired.
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