Kansas Liberty reports on Senate Bill 164, which would allow publication of legal notices on the Internet only. Presently these notices must be published in a newspaper. The measure is viewed as a way to save money.
The Kansas Liberty story (Local governments take aim at small-town newspapers) reports that the downside is that many small newspapers rely on the revenue from printing legal notices, and may suffer if this revenue is lost. We already have one such example. Just a few months ago Sedgwick County switched from the Derby Reporter to the Wichita Eagle, and the Derby paper has announced plans to stop publication. See Derby Reporter Gives Up.
But it’s not the responsibility of small town governments — really their taxpayers — to keep local newspapers in business. If there is a less expensive way to deliver legal notices that still meets the public policy goal of widespread distribution, the state should allow it.
Here’s a possibility. The story reports this: “Don Moler, executive director of the League of Kansas Municipalities, said many states have adapted a system under which local governments can publish abbreviated legal notices in newspapers. The abbreviated notices then direct readers to the local government website, City Hall or a public library to read the notice in full.”
One good thing about legal notices on the Internet is that search engines can find them. Through tools like Google Alerts, people can be automatically notified of legal notices about topics that interest them.
It’s interesting that this bill applies only to second and third class cities, which are small towns. Why not apply this to first class cities too?