Are costly legal notices in newspapers necessary?

In the age of the internet, are taxpayers wasting millions of dollars paying newspapers to publish legal notices?

On any given day you can open a newspaper and inside, often in the classified section, you'll come across those fine print legal notices. They can be lawsuit settlements, delinquent tax listings,official meeting notifications and advertisements for competitive bids. Municipal governments are required by law to select newspapers to publish legal notices. Last year, the City of Syracuse paid the Post-Standard more than $186-thousand dollars for legal notices, Onondaga County paid the Post Standard $71,000.

Just about every government entity has a website. Some, like the City of Syracuse's and Onondaga County's, can be sophisticated with links and search engines. Some feel the technology would make it cheap and easy to post legal notices.

When CNY Central's Jim Kenyon raised the issue with Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, she said it's time to take a "fresh look" at why taxpayers must pay a paper to publish legal notices. "You can understand with the legal notices when people relied almost exclusively on one newspaper to get their information, but those days really are behind us." Mahoney said

Diane Kennedy, President of the New York News Publishers Association, said government websites aren't always reliable and have been hacked. She says the newspapers provide a public record. When you spread the cost over the entire population, Kennedy said legal notices cost taxpayers a couple buck a year. "To have that information disclosed by government about things they're doing that affect taxpayers and the city... that's a pretty good deal."

It would take an act of the New York State Legislature to change the law requiring the publication of legal notices in newspapers of record. Senator John DeFrancisco says its been tried in the past without success, "Obviously the publishers of the world have a lot of ink and a lot of political influence. So they never really go anywhere."

Newspaper Circulation has been dropping significantly. The Audit Bureau of Circulations reports that average drop of newspaper circulations nationwide was 8.7 percent last year. Kennedy says one half of American adults still read a newspaper every day.