The Curry Coastal Pilot

Forces that change the character of a community should be known. And yet, some people and organizations are challenging that concept.

What they are after are public notices, and the revenue they generate.

If you want to know about a zoning change, a land action or any other governmental notice, where do you go?

Likely, the local newspaper.

It's where they are expected and, more importantly, it's where they are vetted.

The newspaper's reputation for credibility is on the line, particularly in legal advertising where so much is at stake.

The importance of newspapers in this regard cannot be overestimated, and particularly in the realm of foreclosure notices.

Granted, publishing notices in a newspaper entails printing costs. And we profit from them.

It costs us money to buy the paper, the ink and run the presses to deliver them to you in the predictable local news context.

Credible local news is also expensive. So are all those folks who make sure the notices are correct.

That's vital, given the immensity of the mortgage foreclosure debacle.

Until recently, foreclosure notices have been published in the newspaper. That has stopped as the courts clear up one more mess in the foreclosure process and the Legislature, hopefully, addresses a misstep it inadvertently made attempting to protect homeowners.

But eventually the process will resume and when it does, so will the argument, a faulty one, that newspapers are dying, and that notices should be moved exclusively to the Web.

The Oregon State Bar has floated the idea of running notices on its own yet-to-be-created website. And the sheriffs of the state have also gotten their toes in this water.

Some predict that there will be a day when everyone gets all their news via the Web. That day is not now. Not even close.

In a recent report, the U. S. Department of Commerce concluded that 25 percent of Oregon's population does not have broadband access to the Internet. The Census Bureau says that more than 62 percent of seniors have no Internet access, and a third of that group is limited to dial-up.

Conversely, according to another study, 80 percent of all Oregon adults read a newspaper at least once during the week, and 54 percent read public notices printed there.

If notices go only to the Web, how will those people know of the massive changes around them?

Who in that missing audience might bid the price up for the creditor or debtor, or spot some irregularity, or worse.

Despite digital mythology, a Web-only approach would reduce notice.

It's very simple.

After we print them in the newspaper, we automatically upload to our own website, as well as an already existing statewide website administered by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

If newspapers lose them, that upload is dead and only those folks lucky enough to have access and the time and energy to perpetually search some other website will have a chance at actual notice.

It's hard to see what this gains. It's easy to see what's lost.

andndash; John Costa, Editor-in-chief, for the Curry Coastal Pilot and WesCom News Service