The (Monroe, LA) News Star, the local Gannett Company, Inc. newspaper, was paid nearly $25 thousand in 2012 for legal ads by the City of Monroe, according to documents obtained by Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO). The News Star is the “official journal” for the city.
See here the 2012 payment vouchers.
All local governments in Louisiana are require by state law to select an “official journal” – LA RS 43:141.
Long-time readers of LPNO are familiar with our dim view of that practice. We have suggested that it is little more than government welfare for newspapers, and that governments might use such an economic relationship as a way to curry favorable editorial and news coverage. In other words, give us favorable coverage, and we’ll remember you when contract renewal time comes.
Similarly, politicians who suggest competing publications should get some of the “welfare” can expect negative coverage.
Consider the following:
During the 6/28/2011 council meeting, there was this discussion about selection of the “official journal.”
Resolution No. 5748 was offered for final adoption by Mrs. Ezernack and on her motion seconded by Mr. Clark was unanimously approved and adopted. (There were no comments from the public.)
Resolution appointing The News-Star as the Official Journal of the City of Monroe, Louisiana, pursuant to the Louisiana R. S. 43:141 ET. SEQ. and further providing with respect thereto.
Mr. Clark wanted to know how we determine our official journal for the City.
Mrs. Summersgill stated I think Mrs. Riley could answer that better for you. There’s a specific statute on it.
Mrs. Carolus Riley, Council Clerk, informed the Council that with the information she advertise she need a daily circulation newspaper that way everything don’t get backed up as far as an ordinance that needs to come back in seven days. If a weekly paper is used that seven day ordinance that has to lie over will skip a meeting.
Mr. Clark stated I read that statute and most of the smaller municipalities don’t have daily papers.
Mrs. Riley explained that they also only have one meeting a month.
Mr. Clark noted that’s true but if the City wanted to advertise an item like that particular item only, could we also look at alternating our official journals.
Mrs. Riley explained that they all use to be named the City’s Official Journal; it’s not that they don’t get out business; they run the minutes and other departments.
Mr. Clark wanted to know how long the news star has been our official journal.
Mrs. Riley noted that the City has always used them and the other two, which has recently stopped.
Mr. Clark noted this is what he is looking at the Newsstar being the official journal the other two being the Free Press and the Dispatch, they get on an alternating basis and they get business here and there. He wanted to know how long how long the Newsstar has has been the official journal and what is the current price that we are paying for our official journal.
Mrs. Riley noted that it is less than the two other papers, which is $3.85 I believe to the News-star and $4 to the others.
Mr. Clark wanted to know if quotes were solicited from the other two papers, The Dispatch and the Free Press.
Mrs. Riley explained this is how it’s been set up. This was done prior to and this is how it has ran when bids were done when it first started.
Mr. Clark wanted to know how we know that the other two are higher.
Mrs. Riley noted that they run the minutes and that’s what they charge. $4.00 a column inch.
Mr. Clark wanted to know how they know that the price wouldn’t have changed if they had given a quote.
Mrs. Riley noted that one of them has been trying to raise the price anyway, but the Council can do that if you like.
Mr. Clark noted that at the school board the Dispatch was at $2.00 and he doesn’t know if they even asked them what the quote would be. Mr. Clark would like to see it get around to everybody if possible.
Mrs. Riley noted right and as she said the City did use them all, they were all the official journal and somewhere during budget hearings all that changed.
A similar discussion occurred at the 6/12/2012 council meeting.
Resolution No. 5909 was offered for final adoption by Mr. Clark and on his motion seconded by Dr. Starr was unanimously approved and adopted. (There were no comments from the public.)
Resolution appointing the News-Star as the Official Journal of the City of Monroe, Louisiana, pursuant to the Louisiana R. S. 43:141 et. seq. and further providing with respect thereto.
Mr. Clark asked Mrs. Riley, Council Clerk if this went out for bid.
Mrs. Riley explained that this item does not have to be bided, that the Secretary of State requires municipalities to appoint an official journal. It is up to the council to choose the official journal based on the qualifications and the need for that municipality as outline in the Louisiana Revised Statue. Mrs. Riley further explained that a daily newspaper is vital for the City of Monroe because there are a lot of departments other than the city council that run ads in the newspaper on a daily bases. The Planning and Zoning Department, the Purchasing Department etc. advertises time sensitive items and if only advertised in a weekly paper would put projects behind because council would not be able to act on those items in a timely manner. Also it was noted that the City of Monroe have departments that advertise in all of the local newspapers because of the need to adequately inform the public; by law it is required that the public be adequately and timely informed of governmental functions.
Dr. Starr wanted to know based on the State and the need for the continuity of publication that the News-Star was the option.
Mrs. Riley replied that it is a need.
Now, District Five’s Eddie Clark has been elected council chairman. It didn’t take long for The News Star to attack Clark, calling him an “ambulance chaser” in a 1/5/2013 editorial.
Their editorial board (President and Publisher David B. Petty, Executive Editor Kathy Spurlock, and community representatives Kay Kellogg Katz, Harris Brown, and Will Sutton) asked if Clark’s lawsuit against the Monroe City School Board for allegedly underpaying some employees was really an effort by Clark to “line his own pockets.”
See how it’s done?