Newspapers fight to keep their taxpayer subsidies

There was a curious omission when the Legislature adopted (98) proposals for lowering property taxes. It wasn't a new idea but it was an obvious one.

Thousands of dollars in local taxes are spent every year on legal notices. Every community is forced by law to buy advertising in local papers. The purpose is sound. The community needs to be informed of meetings, bankruptcies and other legal proceedings.

It's a remnant of a time when we wrote letters with quill pens and communicated with friends abroad by telegraph. The ads have the added disadvantage of being unreadable and inefficient but, curiously, they remain a part of every newspaper and a burden on every local town budget.

My former home in Bergen County is a great example. The number of homes that are Internet connected is overwhelming and rising.

Subscription to the county's only newspaper, The Record, represents a minority and is falling. No commercial advertiser intending to reach Bergen County homes would choose to advertise exclusively in The Record. So, why are we mandating seventy communities to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on unreadable legal notices in The Record or even smaller shopper papers that lie discarded at the end of suburban driveways?

The answer is obvious. Communities do have an obligation to post legal notices. The proper vehicle for notification is the Internet. Every Community probably already has a web site. This is a problem that one good search engine can solve. Those dwindling few without Internet availability already have access to local libraries. It's a problem with a ready answer.

Could it be that the same newspapers which rail against health insurance for state workers or benefits for school teachers are fighting to hold on to their own public subsidy? Are middle income real estate taxpayers subsidizing multimillionaire publishers? Is there a reason for spending millions of tax dollars for something that would be better achieved for free? Isn't this an idea that deserved to be on the property tax savings list?

Newspapers fight to keep their taxpayer subsidies