ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Though we’re disappointed by the city council’s decision to make the Hillsboro Star-Journal the official newspaper again, we’re not critical of it. In fact, facing the likelihood that Hoch Publishing would sue the city over this issue, the council made the right call.
Sure, we’d like to know how a courtroom judge would evaluate the qualifications of the Hillsboro Free Press Digest to be the city’s official newspaper. Whatever the decision, though, the biggest loser would have been the local taxpayer. We would not expect-or want-taxpayers to underwrite a cat fight between newspapers about an issue few citizens care about, and over an amount of money that, in the end, is not significant in the grand scheme of city government.
Hoch rhetoric aside, this squabble has been about which newspaper receives the revenue for publishing the city’s legal notices. As political consultant James Carville is fond of saying, “When someone says it’s not about money, it’s about money.”
At the same time, we want the issue to be about taxpayer money, too. We hope the city council will stand firm on its resolve to be good stewards of public money by insisting on its right to determine type size and format for its legal notices-the devil is in the details, as the saying goes.
Now that Hoch Publishing has achieved its objective for the immediate future, we hope the Star-Journal will return to the basics of good journalism and publish stories about city government that are fair, balanced and accurate. Public servants deserve that much, and so do readers. Ultimately, a strategy of journalism by intimidation hurts everyone.
We will not be deterred by this reversal. In at least one sense, we are encouraged. In the face of external pressures, our city leaders showed good judgment on this issue-twice, in fact. The first time was when they chose the Digest as the official newspaper on the basis of “cost and service.” The second time was when they reversed that decision to avoid the cost of petty litigation.