Battle over public notices heating up again


Foxes and hen houses and public notices, oh my.

The Gannett newspaper chain’s Florida properties, or “USA Today Network-Florida” as they like to be called, are raising the alarm once again over public notices, this time with a full-color, half-page ad.

Florida law ensures Old Media a monopoly by requiring meeting notices and other legal notices, for example, to be advertised in print.

Under state statute, such ads must run in a newspaper published at least once a week and considered a county’s publication of record.

New Media has been giving newspapers a run for the money since 2012, when state lawmakers turned back a Republican-backed measure to move legal notices of foreclosures from print to the internet, thereby breaking the decades-long exclusivity.

This ‘food fight’ has bubbled up in some form every year since, and Gannett seemingly is taking a preemptive strike for the 2018 Legislative Session.

“Some officials want to move notices from newspapers to government-run websites, where they may not be easily found,” says the ad, which ran over the Thanksgiving weekend in the Tallahassee Democrat.

“This is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.” (I expect Gannett fancies itself the defending rooster in the ad, staring down the wily fox.)

As I said earlier this year, “For print media, publishing legal notices is one of the last remaining cash cows, something the GOP-led Legislature knows well. But lawmakers are not ready—or willing—to deregulate the newspaper industry and modernize the legal/public notices system.

“… But simply moving public notices from published newspapers to government-sponsored sites is not the answer,” I wrote. “The right move is to break the monopoly (newspapers) have on legal notices, expanding the ability to post legal notices to any recognized news outlet, either print or online-only.”

Gannett has taken its shot across the bow. Now let’s see who returns fire.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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