ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
We were pretty sure that challenging the monopoly that paid-circulation newspapers have on publishing legal notices would raise some hackles down the street from us. We also figured some of the rhetoric we would hear from that direction in response to our proposal to the Hillsboro City Council last Tuesday would be a mix of fact and “friction.” We were right on both counts.
Yes, we created the Hillsboro Free Press Digest a little more than a year ago as a vehicle that could allow government entities to publish legals with us. Our friends down the street describe that strategy as “subterfuge” and a “scam.” Let’s consider that for a moment. The current statute was originally passed to ensure that legal notices would be published in newspapers that truly aim to serve the public good, not fly-by-night advertising circulars that care only about revenue. We fully support the intent of the law.
Unfortunately, the statute does not take into account a publication like the Free Press, which in every other way except for the practice of charging money for subscriptions, serves the public good of the community as well as any paid-circulation newspaper in the state-and maybe better than many.
In fact, our every-home distribution strategy fulfills the intent of publishing legals far better than the limited distribution of a paid-circulation paper. The Free Press Digest (a sample of which you can examine on pages 16 and 17 of this issue) is a vehicle which gives a government body the opportunity to adhere to the letter of the law and, by reprinting the legals for no charge in the Free Press, a better opportunity to fulfill the spirit of the law.
If there is a “scam” afloat in this situation, it is the way some paid-circulation newspapers, facing no competition, have taken advantage of government bodies at taxpayer expense. Some charge a rate that is actually higher than state statute allows. Some increase the point size of the type-without consulting the sponsoring government body-so a legal notice takes up more room than it would need to.
We can put a stop to that if the city council accepts the proposal we have offered. Even if we do not win a bidding process that may result, we are confident that simply submitting a bid will return accountability and economy to the process. That may not help our bottom line, but it will serve the public good. And that has value for us, too.