By Dennis Hetzel, ONA Executive Director

So far, so good. But this is no time to relax.

We’re working to ensure that our public notice language survives the legislative budget process. Please support our position with your local legislators. This link will provide a copy of what we presented to the Senate Finance Committee when I testified Thursday. This includes updated, revised talking points to use as you see fit.

We are expecting a Senate vote in early June on the budget bill. Compromises we have made are modest, and the essence of House Bill 220, our notice bill from last session, has been preserved.

We need your help: At this writing, we are seeking removal of language that would allow governmental bodies to sell advertising on their websites. The Senate has received letters supporting our position from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and Ohio Association of Broadcasters. Essentially, this is government competition with a private-sector activity — and what is more essential than advertising sales?

Amendments to the budget bill, including one that will seek removal of this bad language, are due at the end of next week, so now is the time for editorials on this subject and contacts with state senators from your areas urging them to sponsor or support such an amendment.

We urge ONA members to also engage local Chambers of Commerce and even local broadcast media. You might note that many private-sector associations, such as local Chambers, also sell advertising and sponsorships on websites, and we all realize the pot is only so big. (For more detail, go to the link I’ve provided and see the final talking point. We also included copies of the OAB and Ohio Chamber letters for your use.)

Some members may recall that former Gov. Ted Strickland vetoed a similar provision when it landed on his desk a few years ago.

Market research has great news: The Senate Finance Committee also saw timely slides from the market research we just received from American Opinion Research, and it is very positive for us. By an overwhelming margin, Ohio adults think public notices are important uses of government funds and they belong in newspapers. The findings also are strong on the overall readership of our newspapers and eye-popping on the importance of local newspaper advertising. Ohio’s Sunday readership is eight points higher than the national average, for example.

More information will be coming your way on this research. We certainly will be providing promotional and marketing materials for members that utilize this research.

Links that caught my eye

Tablets matter a lot: Let me put a “must-read bullet” on this — an article by noted media observer Ken Doctor on why tablet computers should matter a lot to newspapers.

Pundits with problems: This study looked at the predictions made by political columnists. How often are they right? You’d be better off flipping a coin in most cases. You might be surprised by the names of some who didn’t fare well, such as Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.

Obit writing shouldn’t die: Great stories always are about people. Unfortunately, the art of great obituary writing is about as dead as the subjects at many papers. The deaths of interesting people are opportunities for memorable stories that any newspaper can do. Anyone (like me) who grew up watching the ‘Empire Carpet Man’ on television would be interested in this obit story from The Chicago Tribune. Just as an aside, when I posted this article to my Facebook page, it got more comments than my typical posts. These stories resonate.

Local advertisers have a tech gap: I recommend this piece to our web editors and advertising managers. It’s a discussion about local news sites as well as the technological weaknesses of many local advertisers and how we can help them. The interview is with Jim Brady, who recently joined Journal Register Co. to head their digital transformation project dubbed Project Thunderdome.

Check out the Dover-New Philadelphia Times Reporters’ editorial:Let’s keep state government out of media business.

Here’s a good editorial from The Vindicator:The business of government doesn’t extend to advertising.”

Here’s another one:Ads on government sites still a bad idea.”

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