There was a time when we didn’t feel this way at all.
All three of the founders of this news conglomerate called The Rant used to work in small daily newspapers and were indoctrinated to fight the annual effort from counties and cities to eliminate the requirement to post public hearings and records in local newspapers.
It comes up every year. Local governments and organizations like the N.C. Association of County Commissioners get legislators to file bills removing the requirement from state statute. Newspaper editors and publishers fight it as if they are personally offended. Obviously, they are successful, because the practice continues.
Never fight a man who buys ink by the barrel, as the saying goes.
This year, though, there are two local bills floating in the N.C. House to end this practice — House Bills 35 and 51 — that have actually gained some traction. Neither of them affects Lee County, though HB51 does include Harnett County.
The Rant Monthly is probably the first and only newspaper in the state that will tell you this. The truth is, tax dollars shouldn’t be used to subsidize newspapers.
It’s a preposterous idea if you think about it. This is a statute that requires local governments to spend thousands of dollars each year with a private company. Newspaper editors would abhor such an arrangement in any other industry.
And that ink is not as powerful as it once was. As circulation numbers continue to plummet for local newspapers, it’s getting harder and harder for them to argue that they are the most effective way for local governments to reach a wide audience.
Concerned parties actively involved in local government issues have plenty of avenues outside of the local rag to find out when hearings are held. All counties have websites and Facebook pages and other social media accounts.
If this was truly a matter of educating and informing the public, newspapers would donate the space to local governments. It’s not. It’s about money.
We made the meager and somewhat embarrassing wages of a local newspaper reporter in our time. While the huge corporation that owned our papers made big bucks, we didn’t. More often than not these days, these thousands of tax dollars are going out of state to buy a new yacht for a CEO. The ink those taxpayer dollars pay for is more and more watered down and faded by the day. It’s time to end this practice for good.
Of course, if Lee County and the City of Sanford want to start sending us all that money for posting announcements and records in The Rant Monthly, we will happily retract this editorial. We like money, too.