Keep legals in newspapers

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A South Marion Citizen editorial

Many people, including those who cover politics for a living, feel that some politicians must go to political school and take a course called “avoiding the question.”

Last week, as he spoke to the State Road 200 Coalition, State Sen. Charlie Dean from Citrus County showed that he was very adept at that part of being an elected official.

First, some background. Legal advertising is that which is required by law to be published in newspapers. It involves such small items as calling for bids, fictitious names, divorce notices, etc., and such major things as the annual huge section publicizing delinquent taxes.

The South Marion Citizen cannot publish legal advertising, because there is a state law that says what are commonly called “legals” must be published in paid circulation newspapers. As you all know, the Citizen is free. There are many newspapers in the area, both daily and weekly, that are eligible to print the notices.

Dean is pushing, in the Legislature, to remove all legals from newspapers. He wants them to be online, and last week also added the possibility of publishing them on cable television local community channels.

After Dean's speech, he opened the floor for questions, and the first query came from the Citizen as he was asked why he wanted to put the legals on the Internet, when he was speaking to a group of people, many of whom “are not of the computer generation.”

His first comment: “Newspapers are a dying breed.”

Sorry, Charlie. That wasn't the question. He never addressed the fact that he was talking to many people who are not up to par on computers, people who would be cut out of reading legals if they go on the Internet.

He continued with his response, directing it to the Citizen as if the questioner worked for the big Marion County daily, despite his being introduced before the meeting. He was quickly corrected, which caused a quick change of subject.

It would be interesting what the people who live in the 15,000 or so households who get the Citizen every week would say. Our newspaper is currently not a dying breed to them, but does he think that these people are a dying breed? We like to think our readers are very much alive, and are capable of making their own decisions when it comes to where they get their information.

In addition to the weakness of having these people depend on the Internet for legals, does Dean really think that people sit down, turn on their televisions and go to the information channel? If they're like us, they first go to the guide to find out what's on the tube, and the community channel is not their main source.

There was one thing Dean talked about that we agree with. He is on a committee to do with redistricting as a result of last year's census. He said that he feels districts should move out to county lines.

We hope that's true. Then maybe we could get one of our own Marion County residents as our state senator, someone who realizes that the real dying breed is good ol' boy politicians, and that newspapers will be around long after they're gone.


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