The liberal mainstream newspapers like to attack lobbyists, except when the lobbyists are working for the mainstream newspapers.
The mainstream newspapers successfully lobbied North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and convinced him to veto a bill sponsored by state Sen. Trudy Wade that took away a special exemption for newspaper carriers and a state-mandated monopoly on legally required advertising in paid circulation newspapers.
If it were any other industry the mainstream media would be highly in favor of Wade’s bill. In fact, the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer ran a series of articles about the abuse of independent contractors in the construction industry.
The mainstream newspapers are opposed to other industries using independent contractors when the workers should be classified as employees, but the same newspapers lobbied hard to keep the special exemption for newspapers as state law.
Why should newspaper carriers alone be singled out by the state government as not being employees?
What Wade’s bill would have done is required newspapers to abide by the same laws as every other industry when determining whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor.
Newspapers don’t have to be concerned about those laws when it comes to newspaper carriers. Even if a carrier meets all the requirements of an employee, because of a special exemption in state law that applies only to newspapers, carriers are not employees. So they do not have to be paid like employees or receive the benefits of an employee.
It’s a great deal for newspapers and no doubt a lot of other industries, like the construction industry, would love to have such an exemption for themselves. The problem other industries have is that their lobby in Raleigh is not as powerful as the newspaper lobby.
The advertising portion of the existing law is, if anything, more egregious. Any legal advertisement that is required by state law has to be placed in a newspaper with paid circulation.
Municipalities, counties and the state government are required to run millions of dollars worth of advertising every year to advertise such things as public hearings, and those ads have to be placed in a newspaper with paid circulation.
Other advertisements required by state law, such as home foreclosures and estate disclosures, must be placed in a newspaper with paid circulation.
Wade’s bill would have, in Guilford County, allowed those government ads and legally required advertising to be placed on the Guilford County website.
The major newspapers argued – with no evidence to support it – that the information is more accessible to people in a newspaper rather than on the county website.
But smaller newspapers were more honest. The publisher of the Jamestown News said that paper would go out of business if people weren’t forced by law to advertise in it.
The fact that public notices that are supposed to notify the people of the county can legally be placed in a newspaper like the Jamestown News, with a circulation of at most a couple of thousand in a county of 500,000, proves how ridiculous this law is in today’s world.
The Jamestown News meets the requirements of the current law, and I do have a dog in this fight because the Rhino Times, with an estimated 10 times the circulation of the Jamestown News, which doesn’t publish its circulation figures, doesn’t meet the requirements because the Rhino Times is free.
If the idea is to get the information to the public, which is more accessible – a free publication or a paid circulation publication?
Wade’s bill would have allowed Guilford County to set up a program to run both government and legal advertising on the Guilford County website for a fee. The revenue would be split so that half of the revenue from the website advertising would go to the schools and the other half to the county.
Wade’s bill didn’t preclude advertising in newspapers, it simply provided an option. If the City of Greensboro chose to continue to run ads in the News & Record, it could do so. But it is likely that the News & Record would have to lower its prices to get that advertising.
Attorneys placing legal notices would have the same option. They would be allowed to place the advertisements in newspapers or on the Guilford County website.
The truth is that most of this advertising is done simply to comply with state law, so governments and attorneys use the least expensive option available, which is why the Jamestown News runs so many of these legal ads.
What Wade’s bill would have done – if Cooper hadn’t vetoed it – was to bring the free market to legally required advertising. Plus, the bill only applied to Guilford County to set up a pilot program.
Some counties in the state are currently allowed to run their own notices on the county website and it seems to be working. What this would have done is simply launched a pilot program to determine if expanding it to legally required advertising from other governments and from attorneys would work.
It’s too bad that Cooper buckled under to lobbyists who were looking out for their own bottom line, not the best interests of the people of North Carolina.
It’s hard to see how being forced to pay exorbitant fees for advertising that the state requires benefits anyone except the owners of paid circulation newspapers. But Cooper no doubt guaranteed endorsement from those newspapers with this veto, and for Cooper that was probably a good deal because he’s going to need every vote he can get in 2020.