Projo’s Glass House — Company Earns Hundreds of Thousands from Antiquated Legal Notices Requirement
Thursday, August 09, 2018
The Providence Journal.
When both Governor Lincoln Chafee and Governor Gina Raimondo submitted their budgets to remove the outdated and expensive requirement — what did the depleted Providence Journal do? Hire a lobbyist -- insider Joe Walsh -- to have the budget articles removed over the objection of the League of Cities and Towns. Walsh was paid nearly $100,000 to keep the decades-old statute on the books.
According to state records, the Projo still gobbles up upwards of $700,000 per year in taxpayer funds for these outdated notices. And in Providence, the city is still forced by the outdated law to spend, on average, more than $60,000 per year.
Dan Beardsley, the then-Executive Director of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns confirmed in 2016 to GoLocal that the organization representing the municipalities across Rhode Island supports the repeal of the outdated requirement.
The requirement to use newspapers is decades old, as the legislation was passed well before the Internet was created. Actually, the law was on the books since before man walked on the moon. The requirement does not reflect where readers collect most of their information or that newspapers circulations have plummeted. According to media expert Mary Meeker, consumers spend just 4 percent of their media consumption time with print.
In 2014, Chafee pushed for the elimination as a budget article, "The FY 2015 Budget provides entities the option to use alternative methods of posting legal notices," according to the budget summary. The provision, Article 22, would give the state 120 days to establish rules for a public website.
The Chafee administration's argument was that newspapers no longer reach more people than the Internet. Since 82 percent of Rhode Island adults have used a state website for services, it would be a difficult argument for newspapers to defeat. Not only would their proposed website be available for free - not behind a paywall, or stuck in a newspaper box, or lining a birdcage – but its aim was to be proactive. Users would be able to sign up to receive postings that match their business or interests.
Walsh -- who along with his firm has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to members of the General Assembly -- did the Projo's bidding, and quashed the reform efforts.
"The very idea of having to publish legal notices in a newspaper seems pretty old-fashioned," said Dan Kennedy, Associate Professor of Journalism at Northeastern University told GoLocal in 2014.
The Projo is now casting aspersions at GoLocal because, in their mind, GoLocal is cutting into their turf. But, there are a number of differences.
First, GoLocal was asked by the city to help distribute information about public hearings and meeting via the web, social media and email. Second, the agreement was signed by the City Clerk and the payments were approved by the City Treasurer and Mayor Elorza’s Finance Director Larry Mancini.
The payments were made during the tenure of three city council presidents. And, unlike the shrinking distribution of the Providence Journal — GoLocal continues to expand in all measure by double digits annually.
The once locally owned Providence Journal that covered Rhode Island news like a blanket with a newsroom of more than 300, now has been slashed and cut to between 10-15 news reporters. A sad commentary on corporate greed and inability to realize that people would move away from shooting ink onto dead trees and would rather have their news delivered digitally.
Maybe the Projo could lead by example and demonstrate that their hands are clean. Drop the State House lobbyist and support the recision of the outdated law. This would save cities, towns and state agencies hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. The hypocrisy of the Projo's moral outrage is as hollow as its newsroom — vast and vacant.
- EDITORIAL: The PawSox Stadium Solution
- EDITORIAL: Brown’s Demolition Strategy, Where is Antoinette Downing?
- EDITORIAL: Want to Rebuild Trust With Rhode Islanders? Let Them Vote on the PawSox Stadium
- EDITORIAL: GoLocal LIVE’s First Anniversary
- EDITORIAL: Raimondo Denial of Ties to NRA Money - “We Call BS”
- EDITORIAL: Kilmartin’s Perverse Behavior
- EDITORIAL: Those Who Should Be Protecting Retirees Are Blocking The Effort to Investigate
- EDITORIAL: Why We Hired One of America’s Most Respected Pollsters
- EDITORIAL: Picketing Raimondo’s Home is Over the Line
- EDITORIAL: Providence’s Grisly Decline (PART 2)
- EDITORIAL: It’s Time for Ethics Commission to Look at Smiley, Inc.
- EDITORIAL: Brown Listens
- EDITORIAL: Mr. Speaker, Do Not Succumb to a Last Minute, Backdoor PawSox Deal
- EDITORIAL: Pawtucket Can’t Afford Pawtucket, Let Alone the PawSox Deal
- EDITORIAL: Deepwater’s Success Has Many Parents
- EDITORIAL: Just “13% Strongly Support” Public Financing for PawSox Stadium
- EDITORIAL: RI Politics at its Worst — Last Minute Legislation Moving For PawSox Owners
- EDITORIAL: PawSox — Cooking the Numbers. Stadium Funding Cannot Work with False Numbers.
- EDITORIAL: Why Providence Should Embrace Fane’s Tower
- EDITORIAL: Elorza’s Speed Camera Tax — Government At Its Worst
- EDITORIAL: Mayor Elorza’s War on Small Businesses
- EDITORIAL: Thank You Chairman Cheit for Your Service, Ethics Needs New Leadership
- EDITORIAL: It is Time to Fire Deloitte
- EDITORIAL: Raimondo’s Perverse Fundraising - Tobacco, Guns and Opioids