The Portland Phoenix

The role of a newspaper

The Maine newspaper industry is currently fighting a new skirmish in the perpetual battle over the publication of public notices in their pages.

Current law requires that public notices be published in papers of general circulation, among other requirements. There are frequent efforts to remove this requirement and allow towns to publish notices only on their websites. This year’s legislation, LD 422, is currently being reviewed in the Legislature.

While the Phoenix does not routinely print public notices, we support the efforts of other newspapers, and the Maine Press Association, to reject LD 422, which would change the public notice requirement to allow municipal governments to publish public notices on websites only. (Several of the general arguments on this issue are outlined in the advertisement on this page.)

Most importantly, readers need to know that they can find all public notices in one place, from council meetings, liquor license applications, court actions, to notices from the state transportation department.

From earliest times, newspapers have been the source of these important notices of town government, and it is an important source of revenue. If municipalities could place their public notices only on one website, they would not reach as many people and their effectiveness would be limited. They would also require citizens to have internet access, which is exclusionary.

This legislation is being considered by the State and Local government committee, and likely the full Legislature, in the coming weeks. We urge our readers with an interest in this issue to contact their legislators.

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