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Friday, April 5, 2013

Die-hard dinosaurs

The newspaper industry is still pushing in the Oregon legislature to force notices of sheriff's sales to be published in dead-tree newspapers, rather than merely on publicly owned websites like this one. Here's the bill (mysteriously sponsored by no one) that's resisting the inevitable. It's apparently still alive and well in Salem.

We hate to see the papers absorb another blow, but the whole idea of requiring that legal notices be printed in hard-copy newspapers is one whose time has come and gone. Long gone.

Comments (14)

I don't really know what it feels like to go into rehab...but I feel i now have a better appreciation of how an alcoholic must feel going into rehab...just one more for the road....can't stay off the blog.....

On a related note, I had a relative pass away in the last couple of weeks and my family had to buy an obituary from the O. The charge was oomplete robbery at a time when families are in no position to argue. If the legislature wants to help Oregonians out, it might want to take a look at these abusive tactics and come up with a solution.

Somebody should start a Craigslist for obituaries.

That reminds me of the innumerable bills pushing to require MP3 player and cell phone manufacturers to carry AM and FM transceivers. I spend my entire life trying to get away from the idiocy of morning deejays and Nickelback/Phil Collins/Pearl Jam eight times an hour, and yet I'm supposed to pay more for a new phone just because ClearChannel won't change its business model? At this point, with both terrestrial radio and hard-copy newspapers, I honestly look forward to the implosion.

Moribund newspaper industry old-schoolers giving new meaning to the concept of "town criers."

I recently ran into a few people from my weekly newspaper days in the mid-Nineties. A couple of really nice folks, a couple of blatant and unrepentant cokewhores (and I'm not exaggerating), and both have one thing in common. They stayed in print journalism, and absolutely refuse to leave even though they know that the market is cratering. A couple are true believers, who figure they can still make a difference, even if they're working for one of those regional magazines where the copy is essential to help you tell where the ads for BMWs and plastic surgeons end. A couple keep on until they can retire. At least two stay on because they know they're unqualified for any job that doesn't involve standing on a street corner and asking "Business, mister?" of passersby, and with two, if they ever quit, four local coke dealers wouldn't be able to send their grandkids to Harvard any longer.

The one thing they have in common? Ten years after the print newspaper market really started crashing, and about the same time since print magazine distribution started to fall apart, they're still certain that it'll all come back, one of these days, if their readers just kept believing in them. In fact, they get point-blank hostile if anyone dares state that maybe the market is dead, and they should move on while they have the chance. All they need, they say, is an audience that will choose them over the Internet, even if they aren't willing to offer anything that the audience might want to read. I'm not too worried about the cokewhores (they both work for publications that are little more than tax shelters for extremely rich people who want to pretend they're more important than other extremely rich people, and those publications act as workfare programs for Southern Methodist University's journalism graduates), but hearing the plights of the others actually hurts.

When it comes down to it, I had a lot of fun during my writer days, but there's no way in hell I'd go back to it. As much as I hate to do so, I end up paraphrasing Terry Pratchett when talking about that time: "I don't look at it as quitting. I look at it as leaving early to avoid the rush."

Thank you, Jack.

Like you, I am fond of newspapers. But the more they abuse the unearned monopoly on public notice, the more determined I am to wrest it away from them and put that money to work helping the public, instead of padding publishers' profits.

Legal Aid has been slashed in Oregon, and needs a funding source desperately; legal and public notices, like interest on lawyer trust accounts, should support the legal system, not the newspapers.

The O has been robbing the dead for some time. However the NW Examiner will still publish an obit for free if the person was somehow connected to the NW part of town.

Newpapers should be thankful that town criers didn't hire lobbyists to protect their industry.

For the record, I'm very fond of buying and reading newspapers, too.

Here's a book I recommend:

In the Vineyard of the Text: A Commentary to Hugh's Didascalicon, by Ivan Illich (UChicago Press, 1996)

Hugh's Didascalicon was the first book written on the art of reading, circa 1130 CE.

Publisher Comments:

In a work with profound implications for the electronic age, Ivan Illich explores how revolutions in technology affect the way we read and understand text.

Examining the Didascalicon of Hugh of St. Victor, Illich celebrates the culture of the book from the twelfth century to the present. Hugh's work, at once an encyclopedia and guide to the art of reading, reveals a twelfth-century revolution as sweeping as that brought about by the invention of the printing press and equal in magnitude only to the changes of the computer ageā€”the transition from reading as a vocal activity done in the monastery to reading as a predominantly silent activity performed by and for individuals.

You can read the TOC and Introduction here:

Thank you John Gear. The sequester will be devastating for Legal Aid. Another dedicated funding source, not at the ideological whims of the Feds, would be fantastic.

I'm OK with the change so long as the public notices are viewable for free and the virtual "paper" that carries them doesn't limit your viewing, charge for the privilege or make you give up all sorts of personal information to access it.

I'd also add that it couldn't hurt to demand that the notices be displayed either at all postal stations or in all branch libraries for those who don't have computers and have problems accessing a computer (or no interest in doing so).

NW, the great thing about the proposal is that, once we are freed from the obsolete and wildly expensive (and ineffective) publication on paper, we can do things that will knock your socks off, because there's been so much progress going on elsewhere and zero with legal and public notices. Things like:

Every notice fully available in a fully searchable archive, 24/7.

Every notice available to be read BY users or TO users with vision impairments via their smartphone, tablet, desktop, or even just their old touchstone landline (touchtone dialing was really the dawn of the digital age, we just didn't recognize it).

Smart notices that, for no additional cost, can deliver rich layers of graphical information -- instead of paragraphs of metes and bounds descriptions of property, you can click to be taken to the county assessor site to see the plat maps; maps with zoning alternatives and boundary revisions shown "before and after," and same for annexation proposals; links to satellite maps, etc.

Meeting notices for public meetings that will have layers of depth, with links, so you can actually read the reports before hand and organize a response;

The ability for every language community to translate all public and legal notices and have them reach people who speak those languages with no burden on the agency or person giving notice.

All these tools And more are lying around now, available for the taking, but we're being blocked from them by the outrageous monopoly abuse of the publishers, who demand tribute from each and every one of the roughly 1000 governments in Oregon (and, thus, every Oregon taxpayer). The staggering cost of this waste ... Tens of millions of dollars annually in Oregon alone, billions in the US, all going to line the pockets of big media companies instead of being used to provide funding for legal services.

If the newspaper publishers succeed for a while longer in their campaign to intimidate the Legislature and force legislators to kneel before them, then we'll go the initiative route if we have to. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this will happen, and much sooner than later. Far better notice, at a far lower price, with the money going for an important public need instead of to private monopolists.

Here's another good example of why a publicly owned notice site would be so useful to all Oregonians: at the "Oregon Legal Notice Network" site, we could treat these postings as public notices (which they are). We could provide a registry for every single one of the discharge signs this oped calls for, showing a photo of the sign installed along the river, the complete text, a satellite map showing the sign and the discharge point, and a link to the permit for the discharge, along with a link to the number to call if the permit is being violated.


It's amazing what we could do just using information already laying around fragmented, if we didn't have to blow millions on printing tiny notices in unreadable format on ephemeral paper.

And anyone with access to a public library or smartphone or home computer would have full access.

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