On Tuesday, the Lake County Board of Commissioners decided which local newspaper would serve as their legal newspaper for 2015. This involves publishing all of their legal notices - meeting minutes, requests for bids, foreclosures - anything the county is required by law to print.
The legals are an important source of revenue for newspapers and a significant expenditure for the county. The county usually spends around $30,000 every year publishing legal notices.
For the second year in a row, the News-Chronicle was the least expensive option. But your commissioners chose another paper, which will end up costing taxpayers more.
They have their reasons for that. At Tuesday's meeting, Commissioner Rick Goutermont pointed to ownership as a major motivating factor. The paper that did get the legals is headquartered in Lake County. Our newspaper is owned by Forum Communications, a newspaper group headquartered in Fargo, N.D.
The News-Chronicle is hugely supportive of local businesses, so we understand this reasoning. We are members of and partners with the Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce. Our news stories often cover local businesses. Our paper and website offer a great place for local businesses to advertise and share their products or services with the community.
While we are under the umbrella of Forum Communications, we still act independently. The benefit of having Forum behind us is great, though. If we need extra help on a story, or a helping hand when somebody is sick, or somebody to pick up the slack when a staff member is on vacation, we have that. With Forum, we get training, tech support, human resources, graphic designing and countless other benefits. Forum also provides four living-wage, benefitted jobs in the county, as well as supporting a slew of local freelancers.
But how long can a professional newspaper, staffed by trained, educated journalists, highly experienced salespeople and sharp, talented support staff, survive in a county that doesn't support it?
Our staff is constantly out and about in the community, asking questions and bringing you the news - just as we have for the last 125 years. We frequently have people call us and stop by our office with tips, or to ask questions about what is going on (and yes, many of those questions are about county business). We follow the business of your local governments and make sure you know what's going on, since the average person does not have the time to attend every county board, city council and school board meeting. It's our full-time job and we take that responsibility seriously. We aren't perfect, but we believe we are unequivocally the best, most reliable source of news in this county, even though your subscription bill may come from a different zip code.
When making their decision, the commissioners zeroed in on that zip code. As far as we know, when they hire at the courthouse, a Lake County zip code is not the number one requirement, but it seems it is for their legal newspaper. Quality seems to be of little concern. Even more perplexing is that price is clearly not a motivating factor - though, as if we need to remind you, the county is not on the best financial footing and raised your tax levy 9 percent this year. If the county were financially prudent, they would choose the News-Chronicle.
They have their reasons for not choosing us, but are they the right reasons?