When governments across Florida propose to take important actions, such as raising taxes or rezoning a property, they are required to place a newspaper notice. The reasons are simple: Empowering citizens with information is good public policy, and most people still prefer — and are able — to receive that notice from newspapers.
Now legislators want to move the legal notices from newspapers to dozens, if not hundreds, of governmental websites. That’s a bad idea, and we’re not just saying that because we are a news media company. Despite the inevitable transition to the Internet, many Floridians, including the elderly and minorities, cannot afford computers and monthly access fees. A 2010 study showed that 54 percent of residents over 65 — so-called super voters — do not have access to the Internet, along with 28 percent of African Americans and 35 percent of Hispanics.
Newspapers, by contrast, reach hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of residents.
Anyone who has tried to navigate a government website knows how frustrating it can be, even when you know what you’re searching for. Limiting notices to governmental websites clearly would not provide the same accessibility as a newspaper, and still would have government costs for creating and updating the sites. Most disturbing, government would have complete control over the timing and accuracy of the ads, removing newspapers’ independent verification.
To read the complete editorial, visit www.miamiherald.com.