As a local newspaper, The Gardner News routinely covers community events: school and city; sports and parks; police and fire; milestones and editorials. Most of the employees are Gardner graduates or have ties to the community.
But as a newspaper, it would be remiss not to ask the tough questions or provide opinions. That’s been the history of newspapers since this country began. We believe in freedom of the press. We believe in this country, and the free speech it provides us.
It takes a tough skin to be in the newspaper business; it takes a tough skin to be an elected or public official. Not everyone loves, or agrees, with us. Most of us know that going in. Hopefully, you learn not to take it personal; to listen to the critics; take what you can from it; and make the best decision possible.
That said, an emotional decision to pull public notice from The Gardner News is not in the best interest of the community. We have a vested interest in the community. We have a building here, we have employees here, we purchase in the local economy. And we have a tradition of local readership. Trying to “control the message by shooting the messenger” is usually not a solid decision.
Mayor Steve Shute recently stated in a social media post that what – he termed – as negative coverage was a reason to pull the plug on public notice in the local newspaper. One issue, he said, was that we had “manufactured” a protest regarding a summary annexation notice. It wasn’t manufactured, we did indeed protest. We do not believe it is in the community’s best interest to NOT PUBLISH the address, name or legal description of several hundred acres annexed. Why the secrecy? Addresses and legal descriptions of properties annexed are routine and public. The Gardner News doesn’t have a problem the annexation, it’s this regime’s penchant for secrecy.
If you’ve ever been involved in a boundary dispute, you understand the need for proper, archived, legal descriptions. If you have purchased property, or put up a fence, you understand the need for a documented legal description. As a newspaper, we don’t apologize for raising that issue. Why not document the annexation?
Apparently, the council directed a committee to compare public notice rates to The Legal Record. We believe for the service the city receives, we charge an equitable amount. In fact, although print and postage costs have gone up, we have not increased rates in more than five years; however, the city’s total budget has increased with growth; number of employees and salaries have increased. Your property taxes have increased; our rates have not. In fact, Gardner’s cost to publish public notice is much less than one percent of their total budget. It’s probably less than a third or quarter of the city administrator’s salary.
For the cost, we provide three proofs of publication (usually hand delivered the next day). If the city publishes a correct legal description, that is proof that your property, or your neighbors, was correctly annexed. Internet publication does not meet statutory requirements; however, we have archived public notice at gardnernews.com for online readers.
Although the city’s “committee” indicated they will save money, we ask, was the size of the public notice compared: The Gardner News is a broadsheet, which is twice the size of a tabloid. Column width is wider. The city staff has the ability to control costs: they can request a smaller font (harder to read) or they can shrink schematics. Staff can provide public notice in an easily used electronic format. Actually, we work quite well with city staff; they are pleasant and professional.
We believe public notice should be kept local; the publisher of The Legal Record believes the public notice should be kept in The Gardner News. At least two councilmembers have indicated they believe The Gardner News should continue to print public notices for free if they move city business to another paper. We can’t fathom that logic. It costs to print a newspaper. Would they be able to work for free?
Please take a moment to contact Gardner City Council and ask them to keep public notice in The Gardner News.