BISMARCK, N.D. — Newspaper industry officials say a bill that would allow North Dakota county governments to publish meeting minutes on their websites rather than in official local newspapers raises concerns about government transparency.
The officials spoke out Monday at a meeting of the Legislature’s interim Judiciary Committee, The Bismarck Tribune reported .
Jack McDonald, legal counsel for the North Dakota Newspaper Association, said publishing minutes exclusively on websites could make it harder for the public to keep tabs on what’s happening.
“No matter how you turn out on this bill and what the final result is, the end result is that you’re making it harder for people to find out what went on,” McDonald said.
Steve Andrist, the association’s executive director, argued that residents prefer to see public notices in their local newspaper.
“In general, newspapers are more effective and a more useful medium than government websites to provide this information to the general public,” said Andrist.
But state Sen. Diane Larson, a Bismarck Republican, said publishing on websites might save governments millions of dollars.
“I think that as we’re looking at state budgets and redundancies, that’s really what this comes down to,” Larson said. “Do we want to continue to dedicate over $3 million a biennium to support local newspapers when it might be cheaper to the state budget to allow local entities to put it on their websites?”
The committee ultimately will decide whether the proposal moves forward to the 2019 Legislature.
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com