The Vail Daily, a sister paper of The Union, just received some bad news: Vail’s town government has decided to post the full text of laws on its own Web site, instead of the newspaper, to cut costs.
The switch will save the town $20,000, not exactly chump change.
Needless to say, the Vail Daily’s publisher, Steve Pope, is opposed. Pope said is “unreasonable to expect that the common person” will regularly visit the town’s Web site, whereas most local residents scan his newspaper, according to the Summit News.
If more cities bypass newspapers for legal notices (and this is not the only example), it will be another blow to small-town papers, whose legal ads are about all that’s generating revenue gains in the deepening recession.
Here’s some background about the concern by Steve Outing, a friend and former colleague of mine at the S.F. Chronicle and a new media expert.
The town of Vail should reconsider its policy, in the interest of transparency. Or perhaps officials could advertise the town’s Web site in the Vail Daily’s online edition, directing people to the notices.
In hindsight, the Vail Daily also could have offered a rate cut before it came to this. I hear a lot of complaints from government agencies and nonprofits, which feel “captive” in the legal notice process. Now there’s an alternative.