Here’s a Place to Save Money

Today’s CA devotes two pages to “Classified Legal Notices.” It’s something newspapers around the country do frequently.

In the small number of pages that comprise the CA, two pages is a lot of space. Not that too many people care, since the customer is always wrong when it comes to journalism. Nor do you get much new out of the paper. You’ve probably already heard the news on TV or the internet. Since Gannett took over, the local coverage has diminished, so they’ve lost that advantage.

Newspapers do still print these notices, however, and they get a nice profit from it.

That caused New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to propose a bill to eliminate doing this.

The Record, a New Jersey Gannett newspaper, reports:

Christie also asked lawmakers to revive a bill to allow official legal notices to be published online as an alternative to printed newspapers.

State law currently requires legal notices — advertisements for bid opportunities, public hearings, sheriffs’ sales and other official business — to be printed in newspapers as a transparency measure. Christie argued that taxpayers and businesses would save $80 million a year by publishing those notices online instead. His office, however, has refused to break down Christie’s cost estimate or provide supporting documentation.

Newspaper publishers furiously lobbied against the legal notices bill, arguing that it would hurt their revenue streams and cause hundreds of layoffs. The New Jersey Press Association sharply disputed Christie’s $80 million figure, estimating the cost at $8 million a year for taxpayers and $12 million for businesses, according to a 2010 study.

Of course they did! They won, too, as the bill was squashed by the New Jersey legislature. (D
But I think Christie is on to something. Why not take a hit at the media and do the taxpayer a service as well?

The argument in the past has been that a newspaper is basically free, but you have to have a computer to check the internet. Not really, though. A newspaper is not free and most people do have a computer at home. Those who don’t have access to one at public libraries.

It would be a much more efficient way to do things. You could also use a search engine to find out quickly the property or name you’re searching for.

This idea could work in Tennessee, too. However many millions it would save could be better applied to other government programs.

Christie is riding a wave of unpopularity, which hurt his efforts. I don’t see any downside to it for Tennessee.

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