By Richard Karpel
In a recent article in Columbia Journalism Review, Liena Zagare and Ben Smith argue that local governments should move public notice and other civic advertising from newspapers to local-news websites like their own BKLYNER.
To buttress their case, they claim that a newspaper in their borough, the Brooklyn Eagle, recently had “three of its 12 pages entirely covered” by advertising designed to “make sure taxpayers see how their money is being spent, and to prevent officials from hiding corrupt deals.” But those three pages of advertising in the Eagle were placed by law firms, not public officials. And its purpose was to provide official notice of courtroom process, not public spending. That’s a pretty glaring mistake. Surely, CJR would want to correct the record, right?
We thought so too, but CJR disagrees.
However, we’re less interested in CJR’s editorial policy than in what the mistake illustrates about the authors’ understanding of public notice: It is sorely lacking. And people who write about subjects they know little about tend to spread misinformation, which is what Zagare and Smith have done.