Editorial: Keep a light shining on government transparency


More people are reading the Bladen Journal than ever before.

So when we learned over the weekend that state House Reps. Harry Warren of Rowan County and Jay Adams of Catawba County were recruiting colleagues and preparing to run a bill hurting the public’s need to know — the very transparency of government — we got on the phone to our duly elected representative.

Fortunately, Republican Rep. William Brisson here in District 22 is a much wiser man. He knows the value of newspapers, what they mean to the readers, and how in a county like Bladen not everyone has access to the internet. Just look at how COVID-19 impacted our schools.

Any attempt to change state law and take public notices out of newspapers should be fully rejected by the public.

Consider, if that were to happen, the citizens of this county and the other 99 would be left to guess when to go into numerous websites where entities would then be required to list their public notices. This mainly includes government bodies, but it would also be schools as well — anyone doing the public’s business with your taxpayer money.

We’ve done the work before — that is, going to a government website and trying to find something. Most are a mess. Finding a simple directory that yields personnel, their position and how to contact them can be one heckuva chore.

Very few are user-friendly. If politicians want to hide something that has to be public, a government website is the greatest hiding place ever created.

Newspapers remain the best and most trusted source of communication across the state no matter which county.

Our state has roughly 10.5 million in population. A commissioned survey in November and December confirmed newspapers are reaching 6.6 million North Carolina adults. Sixty percent are by print products alone. Eight out of 10 adults have read a newspaper product in both print and digital form in the last 30 days.

Seven out of 10 read public notices in the local newspaper.

How trusted are we? The survey says 86 percent of North Carolinians see us as the trusted source.

Any politicians at 86 percent?

Our value is high. We’re still asked to do Woodward and Bernstein reporting. We’re still the home of hearing the high school athletes tell about their accomplishments; the home of what happened and why it mattered at county and town government meetings; the home of Bladen County people sharing their plight whether it be recovering from a hurricane or rising through and above government restrictions during COVID-19.

Our print product remains steady. Our website audience was up more than 56 percent in pageviews and 61 percent in users last year. There’s a good reason, too. We adhere to the core principles of journalism. We get facts and we stay away from sensationalizing.

We’re glad to have Rep. Brisson in our corner. Rest assured, our industry will be fighting Warren and Adams all the way.