Monday, April 1, 2013

OpEd - Brevard Times' Legal Notice Editorial Is Flawed

The recent editorial by the Brevard TimesSupport Online Legal Notices, But Oppose Florida Senate Bill 1666 – is flawed in both their facts, as well as their reasoning on how best to bring legal notices into “the 21 Century.”


First, it is wholly inaccurate to say that “current law does not address the move by hard-copy newspapers in recent years to a paid website model where it is unlikely that non-subscribers, who are disproportionately low income, minority, or under 50, would visit.”


In fact, since July 1, 2012, Florida’s newspapers have been required to post their notices to www.floridapublicnotices.com. And, research shows that newspapers have been posting notices to this independent website of the Florida Press Association, where all notices are easily searchable and available at no charge to the public and no additional cost to the advertiser, since 2002.  Moreover, by 2004, the majority of newspapers in circulation were posting notices to this site.


What would be detrimental to Floridians, particularly Florida’s seniors and minorities, is if Senate Bill 1666 passed with this language regarding public notices, as it would remove the second notice requirement from a local newspaper or newspaper’s website and allow it to only be posted on a third-party website, operated by a new vendor with no public accountability or history of publishing legal notices.  How the public, including Florida’s most vulnerable populations, are supposed to know where to find this information is not addressed.


When Floridians want information, they turn to their newspapers, both in print and online.  Research shows that Floridians still regularly read print newspapers and consider them a source of valuable information. Scarborough Research (Multi Market 2012 Release 2) found that 60 percent of Floridians surveyed had read a print edition newspaper in the past 7 days, further debunking the myth that print newspapers are becoming obsolete.


But even if that wasn’t true and print newspaper readership was on the decline and the argument that posting online is more in line with current times and technology, then, wouldn’t logic further dictate that posting these vital second notices on trusted and well-known newspaper sites would ensure that tech-savvy consumers would see these notices? And, wouldn’t that too accomplish the goal of bringing public notices “into the 21st century?”


On behalf of the Florida Press Association and all Floridians impacted by this proposed legislation change, we are urging lawmakers to remove this portion of this good bill and work to ensure that the public is able to view public notices of foreclosures in trusted public newspapers and newspaper web sites.


--Matt Walsh, Chair of the Florida Press Association