Public’s Right to Know at Risk

West Virginia newspapers are fighting for their life this legislative session.  Legislation will be introduced to eliminate the requirement to publish  legal ads in the newspapers.  Instead the legislation only requires the publication of legal ads on a State website.  According to the West Virginia press association, the State will also sell advertising on the website, also taking away much-needed revenue for newspapers.  
  The hardest hit newspapers will be the  small weekly newspapers who depend upon the revenue from legals.
  “Legal advertising accounts for one-third of our revenue at Hometown News,” said Publisher Tamara Pettit.  “The loss of that revenue will not only put our publication in jeopardy, but will deprive our readers of the opportunity to learn about actions which affect their well-being and that of their communities.”
 “Removing legal ads from the newspapers  will have a chilling effect on the public’s right to  know,” said Shannon Sayre, editor of Hometown News.  “With 40% of West Virginia lacking broadband capacity, the Legislature is fully aware that computer access is not readily available to all of our citizens and by making legal advertising available only on the State’s website will deprive a large segment of our population of very vital information.”
 “Hometown News is where you get your local government news, where you learn about what your  friends and neighbors are doing and what issues concern them,” said Pettit.  “A small town newspaper is the heart of the community.”
  Readers should contact their legislators (listed on page 8   ) to let them know they want legals to continue in our publication.