Government relations, including lobbying, is one of ONA’s most important roles as the trade association for Ohio’s daily and weekly newspapers and their affiliated Web sites. ONA does much more than represent the business interests of its members. The association also serves the news media and all Ohio citizens as a watchdog and advocate for open government. That includes laws, rulings and regulations related to open meetings, public records and open courts.
Over a legislative session in Columbus, lawmakers often introduce dozens of bills that affect matters such as advertising, public records and open meetings, taxation, telemarketing, legal notices, labor & employment law and newsprint recycling. Meanwhile, the executive branch and its many agencies may suggest changes to existing regulations or propose new rules that impact ONA members.
Dennis Hetzel, ONA executive director, serves as the registered lobbyist for the association. He also maintains contact with the Ohio delegation in Congress. On federal issues, ONA cooperates with the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) and the National Newspaper Association (NNA) in presenting newspaper industry positions.
“Lobbying basically involves one of two things: You either are trying to prevent bad things from happening or encouraging positive change,” Hetzel said. “And nothing we do in Columbus is more important than engagement on the home front. It is critical for our members to maintain contacts and let their local legislators know where we stand in the districts where their voters live. We’re here to help our members get the support they need to make that happen.”
ONA is assisted by a team of attorneys from the law firm of Baker & Hostetler. These include experts in media law and all areas of newspaper management. Hetzel also maintains relationships with additional attorneys from member newspapers and develops strategic partnerships with other groups on an issue-by-issue basis.
The ONA board of trustees receives monthly updates on legislation and establishes association positions in consultation with the executive director. Bulletin articles, legislative reports, Web site postings and special alerts detailing specific bills help communicate activities to ONA members. And, at times, Ohio’s newspaper industry leaders are asked to personally engage in order to achieve critical objectives.
“The ONA has developed a great reputation in government relations for effectiveness and integrity,” Hetzel said. “We must continue to build on that legacy.”