Texas Water Supplier Cited; Has History of Public Notice Violations

The Dog Ridge Water Supply Corp. was cited by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on Friday for failing to collect a sufficient number of samples required as a result of earlier tests that showed the presence of E. coli and coliform bacteria, according to the Temple (Texas) Daily Telegram. The company, which supplies drinking water to approximately 4,500 people in Bell County, purchases its water from the Central Texas Water Supply Corp. The Daily Telegram reports that both Dog Ridge and its supplier have been cited for multiple violations by TCEQ for failing to follow the state’s public notice requirements.

The value of public awareness of water quality has been highlighted by the controversy over the tainted water supply in Flint, Michigan, where public notice in newspapers had been eliminated by changes in federal and state rules.

 

Wisconsin Legislative Committee Studies Public Notices

Several newspaper representatives testified last week in favor of public notices in newspapers at the initial meeting of Wisconsin’s Legislative Council Study Committee on the Publication of Government Documents and Legal Notices. The committee was authorized by the legislature to study the state’s public notice laws and make recommendations for changes that “reflect technological advances.”

Beth Bennett, executive director of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA) and Andrew Johnson, publisher of the Dodge County Pionier, board member of the WNA Foundation, and board member and government relations chair of the National Newspaper Association, were among those who testified. Former PNRC President Mark Stodder is a member of the committee. Stodder is now president and COO of Xcential Legislative Technologies and a board member of the WNA Foundation. WNA’s weekly newsletter covered the hearing (PDF), which is also available to view as an online video.

PNRC Hosts Conference on Best Practices in Public Notice

The Public Notice Resource Center will identify best practices and share tips on how to secure the public’s right to know at its first-ever symposium on Best Practices in Public Notice on Sept. 22. The conference will be held in conjunction with the National Newspaper Association’s 130th Annual Convention & Trade Show at the Marriott Cool Springs in Franklin, Tenn.

The half-day conference is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. and conclude at 4:15 p.m., immediately prior to the welcome reception that opens the NNA convention.

The symposium will feature a series of presentations and panel discussions based on the official Best Practices in Public Notices recently adopted by the PNRC Board of Directors. The program will help newspapers understand how to increase readership of public notices and to provide the kind of customer service to their clients that will support industry efforts to keep them in print. The symposium will also focus on ad design, legislative strategies and the role of digital notices in furthering the public interest.

More information on the program and how to register is available here on this website.

PNRC Files Comments Opposing EPA Proposal

The Public Notice Resource Center today filed comments urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to deprive the public of newspaper notices relating to the approval of permits under the Clean Air Act (CAA). EPA is considering notifying the public about CAA permits only on a government website.

PNRC was joined in the comments by the 43 other organizations representing newspapers and journalists.

On Dec. 29, EPA announced its intention to reduce the public notice it currently provides in connection with most CAA actions by eliminating the requirement that the notices run in local newspapers near the potential sources of pollution EPA is planning to approve.

“If EPA moves forward with this proposal, it will increase the likelihood that the people who stand to feel the greatest impact from its decisions will be left in the dark until it’s too late,” said Bradley L. Thompson II, president of PNRC. “The Agency’s determination to inform citizens about its plans by posting notices in obscure corners of its website isn’t sufficiently transparent. It is especially unfortunate when pollsters tell us people are suspicious of Washington. Keeping these notices local in places where readers will find them is a good way to combat public cynicism.”

PNRC’s comments note that EPA based its proposal on the mistaken assumption that citizens affirmatively seek public notices and will regularly visit its website to learn about its plans. PNRC also notes that for over 200 years lawmakers have required public notices to be published in newspapers because they offer the best opportunity to reach local, civically engaged readers who are most likely to have a personal interest in the plans and activities described in the notices.

PNRC is a nonprofit organization that provides research and public education materials on the use of public notice in newspapers. It is supported by contributions from newspaper organizations throughout the U.S., including members of the American Court and Commercial Newspapers and most state press associations.

For a copy of PNRC’s comments, click this link to download the document.

Greeneville Sun Staff Writer Earns 2016 Public Notice Journalism Award

 

Ken Little Kenneth Little, staff writer for the Greeneville (TN) Sun, has won the 2016 Public Notice Journalism Award for coverage of a nursing home in Limestone, TN, whose Medicare/ Medicaid coverage was revoked by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The story followed publication of an official newspaper notice by HHS in the Sun noting “deficiencies” by the hospital.

Read the winning story and see the original public notice here.

The award will be presented March 17 by the Public Notice Resource Center at the National Press Club in Washington DC in conjunction with National Newspaper Association’s Community Newspaper Leadership Summit.  Little and his publisher, Gregg Jones, will be present to receive the prize.

See the Sun’s coverage of the award here.

Little’s story was submitted by Tennessee Press Association, which also recognized the coverage in its annual newspaper contest.

Bradley L. Thompson II, president of the Public Notice Resource Center, said judges found Little’s coverage compelling and important to readers. The story noted shortcomings of the John M. Reed Health and Rehabilitation Nursing home cited by HHS. Among them were a report from a housekeeper who said she had checked a patient’s vital signs one night because of a shortage of nursing staff, a failure to maintain antibiotics ordered by physicians, and failure to prevent pressure sores. The public notice advised readers that Medicare/Medicaid coverage would cease as of November 28, 2015.

Thompson said he was particularly pleased that the Sun picked up the story because HHS had proposed at one time eliminating the newspaper notices, an action PNRC had criticized as harmful to the public’s awareness of the agency’s activities.

“Reporters hold a compelling trust to help readers find and understand these important public notices,” Thompson said. “The wording of a notice is usually prescribed by regulation to convey precise information. But to put the information in context, the journalist has to develop the background and guide readers to appreciate the meaning of the notice. Little did exactly what newsrooms across America are doing, and must increasingly do, every day.”

Greg Sherrill, executive director of Tennessee Press Association, echoed Thompson’s praise of the work.

“We were thrilled to learn that the public notice story by Ken Little has been chosen as the national winner for the PNRC Public Notice Contest. Little’s use of a public notice as a genesis for his story and the excellent coverage that has followed led us to choose it as the Tennessee Public Notice Contest winner this winter. As this was the first year Tennessee has sponsored such a contest, we were excited to learn that Little’s work has now been recognized in the national contest. We congratulate Little and The Greeneville Sun for outstanding public service work, which highlights the importance of public notices in the community,” he said.

Little is a native of Western New York and received a communications degree from Buffalo State College. He served as editor of a weekly newspaper in the Buffalo area and has also worked as a staff writer at daily newspapers in Oswego, N.Y., Niagara Falls, N.Y., Lansdale, Pa., Utica, N.Y. and Wilmington, N.C. Ken has served as a staff writer at the Greeneville Sun since 2011. He also has experience as a television news producer at the CBS affiliate in Buffalo and provided on-air reports for the National Public Radio affiliate in Wilmington, N.C.

PNRC Elects New Board of Directors

 

Bradley Thompson

The Public Notice Resource Center (PNRC) has named Bradley L. Thompson II to his third full term as president. Thompson is chairman of Detroit Legal News Company and is a founding board member of PNRC, which was established in 2002.

He is a resident of Ann Arbor, MI, and is a member of the fifth generation of his family to lead the publicly-traded Michigan company. The Detroit Legal News Co. publishes 10 newspapers in Michigan. Thompson is also chairman of Printing Industries of America and a director of Michigan Press Association. He has a long history of involvement in civic organizations and currently serves as vice chair of the Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

PNRC is a non-profit organization created by the newspaper industry to collect, analyze, and disseminate information on public and private notifications to the public through local newspapers, and to educate the public on the value and use of its right to know. It is supported by newspaper organizations across the United States.

PNRC also named new officers and directors to an expanded board, which will focus on best practices for public notice in newspapers in an age of both print and digital notices.

Officers elected were:
As vice president, S. Richard Gard Jr, publisher of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin:
As treasurer, Scott Sibley, publisher of the Nevada Legal News, Las Vegas, NV;
As secretary, William F. Rector, publisher of The Daily Record, Little Rock, AR.

Directors elected were:
Michael Kramer, president of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin;
Hal Cohen, vice president and group publisher; ALM regionals, New York;
Vahn Babigian, general manager of the Metropolitan News Company, Los Angeles, CA

Serving ex officio:
Eric Barnes, publisher of the Memphis Daily News;
Greg Morris, president, IBJ Media/Court and Commercial Record, Indianapolis
Matt Walsh, Editor / CEO of Observer Media Group Inc., Sarasota, FL
Wayne Curtis, group publisher for American Lawyer Media, Atlanta, GA

Appointed to represent National Newspaper Association was Robert M. Williams Jr., publisher of the Blackshear (GA) Times.

Few Visit Indiana’s New Online Budget Website

Indiana has started to feel the effects of a bill passed in the state’s 2014 legislative session. The law eliminated the publication requirement that placed state and local budget information in local newspapers in favor of placing them on the state Department of Local Government Finance. The Goshen News reports that only 4,633 unique visitors clicked onto the portion of the DLGF website where local government budgets are posted during the last six months of 2014.

“Paid published notice of the date and time the various [local governments] will allow you to speak out on their budgets is no longer required of these units,” the paper wrote in an editorial. “They now are only required to post the notice at their office location and inform media outlets of meeting times so that editors can determine whether they have a reporter available to cover the public meeting.”

Our View: Indiana legislature is failing us with public notices – Goshen News (9.2.2015)

Indiana state budget notices website

Michigan Press Scores Points in Debate Over ‘Online-only’ Bill

The Michigan Press Association defended itself well in a story over Michigan House Bill 4183, which would require that public notices be published solely online. The bill was postponed on June 18 and has not been taken up since.

Crain’s Detroit Business examined the bill – and how it would affect newspapers and other media sources in the state – in a well-balanced July 5 story. Among other things, the story noted that the bill’s opponents cite “a large swath of the state without reliable Internet or cellphone service” and that “some townships and small cities, especially in rural areas, have rudimentary websites and older populations that still rely on newspapers for information.”

More importantly, perhaps, the newspaper quoted Lisa McGraw, public affairs manager for the Michigan Press Association, as saying that newspapers believe they have an advantage over TV and radio because they have a permanent record built into their business model.

McGraw told the newspaper that MPA doesn’t oppose cities and townships from hosting their own public notices, but that they shouldn’t be the only source.

“People don’t go to local government websites for news. We feel that we’re a better source for this kind of information,” McGraw said. “I just don’t think the broadcasters can do what we do because they can’t provide a print source.”

McGraw also told Crain’s Detroit Business that the revenue newspapers gain from government notices is not significant, but that it might fund a position, particularly at a smaller daily or weekly publication.

Newspapers take notice of legislative threat to revenue – Crain’s Detroit Business (7.5.2015)

PNRC Names Pennsylvania Reporter Public Notice Journalism Award Winner

 

Lockwood lowres2Jim Lockwood, staff writer for The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pennsylvania, is the winner of the 2015 Public Notice Journalism Award. Lockwood is recognized for his deft incorporation of public notice information into his coverage of local government.

The award will be presented March 19 at the National Press Club.

A second-place award for 2015 will go to the Monroe County Reporter, Forsyth, Georgia, for team reporting on a school district’s attempts to acquire property by condemnation, over the landowner’s opposition. The district wanted to build a Fine Arts Center on the site, a project it eventually abandoned in the face of public opposition. The public notice figured into the story when the school board advertised its condemnation plans.

PNRC President Bradley L. Thompson II, chairman and CEO of the Detroit Legal News, said Lockwood was chosen because his work was a pacesetter for journalists committed to informing their readers about the workings of local government.

“His coverage of a proposed new commuter tax was a terrific example. The city ran the notices, but citizens sued because they believed the action was taken too quickly and without sufficient information to the taxpayers. Lockwood’s story referred readers to the dates of the notices so they could check for themselves. Another story drew citizens’ attention to a possible 12-story cell tower to be placed in a local park. The Federal Communications Commission was receiving comments on the tower, but the owner of the tower would not confirm that it was looking at the location,” Thompson said. “In these stories and several others, he scoured the public notices and drew the public’s attention to them.”

Thompson said PNRC is encouraging journalists to count public notices as a key resource in news-gathering.

“Many worthy stories come to light when newsrooms tap into the rich body of information that comes from public notices. They simply add to the value of the public notices in newspapers, where the public is likely to find them. And they reinforce the importance of citizens’ participation in their government,” Thompson said.

Lockwood was recognized by Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association in its 2014 Public Notice award for his “persistent use of public notices in his reporting.”

The Public Notice Journalism award was established in 2013 by the Public Notice Resource Center, a consortium of newspaper organizations supporting public notice. The award is intended to encourage reporters and editors to incorporate public notices into their reporting and writing.

Sony hack ‘would have challenged even state government’

The high-profile cyberattack on Sony would have challenged almost any cyber security measures, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has said. An FBI investigation calls the level of sophistication of the software used by the hackers “extremely high” and the attacks “organized and certainly persistent.”

Joe Demarest, assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division, told the Senate Banking Committee that “the malware that was used would have gotten past 90 percent of the Net defenses that are out there today in private industry and [would have been] likely to challenge even state government.” His comments were officially confirmed later by the FBI.

The Washington Post editorial board wrote that this is “dangerous fallout from … the inability of Congress and the president to provide stronger protection for the private-sector networks that are at the heart of U.S. society in the digital age.”

FBI official calls Sony attackers ‘organized,’ ‘persistent’ – CNET (12.10.2014)

Sony hack would have challenged government defences – The Guardian (12.12.2014)

Hollywood gets hacked, highlighting a new cybersecurity threat – Washington Post (12.11.2014)