THE HUNTER REPORT
Stop the presses - hometown newspaper a no show!
Do Advertising bucks supersede public’s right to know?
By: Pat Hunter
In a healthy democracy newspapers have long been the government watchdog keeping the public informed but has our hometown newspaper News Herald just rolled over? At two recent Loudon County Budget Committee meetings regarding the proposed FY 10-11 budget, comments were directed about the hometown newspaper.
As a concerned citizen, I try my best to stay informed about local government issues. So far, I have attended all the Loudon County Budget Committee meetings but no local press (News Herald) to cover or report all the details of the proposed FY 10-11 budget. The FY 10-11 budget begins July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.
But the lack of presence by our hometown newspaper hasn't gone un-noticed especially by the Budget Committee Chairman Mayor Arp. He commented about the newspaper not sending a reporter to cover budget meetings however pursuing advertising dollars was a far different story.
The budget committee discussed the expenditures of the election commission proposed budget including the high advertising cost. Advertising dollars in 2008-2009 (actual audit) were $5,390 and the proposed FY 10-11 is $8,500 and the overall budget totaled $299,129.00. The cost to hold one primary is about $50,000.
Budget Chairman Mayor Arp alluded to an alleged incident that occurred when the News Herald publisher met with the former election administrator. The Mayor was referring to an alleged incident between the publisher and former election administrator when they met in the county conference room and a heated discussion ensued over advertising the election ballot in the other paper (Daily Edition) instead of the News Herald. Needless to say, the election notice and ballot is now advertised in the News Herald.
Lenoir City government and Lenoir City Utilities Board usually place public meetings and public notice ads in the Daily Edition and not the News Herald. However, state law imposes additional requirements when it comes to the publication of an election ballot and related notice. The ballot must be placed in a newspaper of general circulation. The law also requires a third class mailing privilege. The Herald meets that criteria while the Daily Edition does not for the election ballot. See election law below.
“All I know is what I read in the papers,” became one of humorist Will Rogers’ trademark puns but that’s one saying that we don’t seem to have to worry about since our hometown newspaper covers few government meetings and appears to be quite content with not sending reporters to cover budget meetings and picking and choosing what the newspaper prints.
The Greeneville Sun (Jones Media) is the parent newspaper to the News Herald. Is the newspaper living up to your expectations of keeping citizens well informed and providing unbiased and accurate news coverage? Please share your opinion with John Jones (Greenville Sun) or Jones Media Inc.
2-1-117. Newspaper of general circulation. —
Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter to the contrary, in any municipality in any county having a metropolitan form of government and a population of more than one hundred thousand (100,000) according to the 1990 federal census or any subsequent federal census, and in any municipality incorporated pursuant to the provisions of title 6, chapter 18, having a population of not less than eleven thousand two hundred (11,200) nor more than eleven thousand three hundred (11,300) according to the 1990 federal census or any subsequent federal census, which lies within both a county having a metropolitan form of government and a population in excess of one hundred thousand (100,000) according to the 1990 federal census or any subsequent federal census and a county having a population of not less than one hundred three thousand one hundred (103,100) nor more than one hundred three thousand four hundred (103,400) according to the 1990 federal census or any subsequent federal census, for the purposes of this chapter a “newspaper of general circulation” includes a publication bearing a title or name, regularly issued at least as frequently as once a week for a definite price, having a third-class mailing privilege, being not less than four (4) pages, published continuously during the immediately preceding one-year period, which is published for the dissemination of news of general interest to the community which it serves, and is circulated generally in the municipality in which it is published and in which notice is to be given.
[Acts 1993, ch. 507, § 1; 1994, ch. 898, § 1.]