SALISBURY — Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican serving state House District 76, last week introduced a bill that would allow a slew of counties to publish public notices on their websites rather than in newspapers.
House Bill 35 is sponsored by two other Republican representatives, Deputy Majority Whip Bobby Hanig and Jay Adams of Catawba County. In addition to Rowan and Catawba counties, the bill would apply to Cabarrus, Currituck, Davidson, Forsyth, Haywood, Jackson, Montgomery, Richmond, Rockingham, Rutherford, Swain and Stanly counties.
Phil Lucey, executive director of the North Carolina Press Association, said such an effort allows counties and governmental entities to “bury notices deep into a website that no one would see.” Additionally, rather than notifying the public, it puts the burden on local citizens to seek out that information.
“Public notices aren’t government subsidies,” Lucey said. “We’re providing a service and we’re paid for that service. Especially now, it’s a time for more transparency, not less.”
The 2021 NCPA Market Study, conducted by Coda Ventures LLC, a market researcher in Tennessee, showed that 6.6 million North Carolinians rely on print and digital newspapers to receive their news, and that 72% read public notices in print or digital newspapers. Further, the study found 86% of North Carolinians cite local newspapers and newspaper websites as their “most trusted” source for public notices as opposed to relying on government and other sources.
Additionally, local newspapers and newspaper websites are “relied on more often” than any other source by North Carolinians seeking information about their local governments. The study showed 54% turned to local newspapers, while 35% turned to local TV/cable.
The study suggests newspaper readers are more informed citizens and voters as 88% of North Carolina newspaper readers vote in state and national elections, while 85% vote in local, school board or county elections. The study showed 93% of all North Carolinians who contacted local officials to voice concerns about specific issues are newspaper readers, while 63% of newspaper readers indicated they often voice their opinions about local community issues compared to 56% of all North Carolina adults.