That our member newspapers have been under attack in Jefferson City, specifically through concentrated efforts to move public notices out of print and post them on websites, is no secret. Missouri Press Association’s leadership, which includes your elected representatives on the Board of Directors, Executive Director Mark Maassen and our lobbying partners in the capitol have been working tirelessly to find an amenable solution for all parties.

MPA’s Board of Directors met in January, via conference call, and approved a policy that would require the posting of public notices on MPA’s website, mopublicnotices.com, in addition to being published in a newspaper. At the same time, a frequency discount was approved for all multiple public notice insertions after the first one.

Following the direction of your Board, we drafted a piece of legislation that we think will address the issues that proponents of moving public notices out of your newspapers have brought forward in committee hearings of the General Assembly, as well as private conversations.

Senate Bill 515, sponsored by Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, would modify provisions related to publication of notice. He filed the bill last week. A summary of SB515 is below:

“Section 493.025 currently affects rates allowable for public notices in the newspaper.  The new language in 493.025 would list all public notices that are required to be published in the newspaper, and in addition, the newspaper publishing the notice would post the notice at no cost on a website established and maintained by at least a majority of Missouri newspapers (MPA’s public notice website, www.mopublicnotices.com). Also, the public notice printed in the newspaper shall be charged at no more than the regular local classified advertising rate (current law), including any volume discounts or repeat discounts. And, when any notice must be published more than one time, the newspaper may not charge for second and successive insertions more than 85 percent of the newspaper’s regular local classified advertising rate.”

The attack on Missouri newspapers this legislative session to move public notices out of newspapers represents the greatest effort to eliminate public notice publishing requirements. SB515, legislation crafted with the input of Missouri Press’ Board of Directors, is a way for US to keep public notices in newspapers, yet also answer the argument that more information is becoming available online. Thus far, ten other states have passed similar legislation requiring public notices to be published in newspapers and on a website run by the Press Association.

Your Missouri Press leadership is not just trying to address the issues of this legislation session, but also to get in front of future attempts to eliminate public notice advertising in newspapers. The multiple insertion discount, a typical business practice, will go a long way toward the argument that advertising in newspapers is too expensive.

We have scheduled a meeting with Secretary of State John Ashcroft this week to discuss future election and amendment advertising issues.

Several of you made calls to your legislators regarding the bills that have been filed to eliminate public notice advertising. Missouri Press appreciates your efforts on behalf of all the Association’s members.

We will continue to keep you appraised of the progress of these bills and future legislation that may affect newspapers.

James White

MPA President

Benton County Enterprise, Warsaw