Fox guarding the henhouse in Salina

Some news that we find rather disturbing originated out of Salina, Kansas, this week (what is it with Kansas and newspaper news in 2023?) when the City of Salina decided to use its own website to publish legal notices beginning with the new year. This move comes after the city commission Monday adopted a resolution to designate the city’s website as the official city “newspaper.”
While the change in official newspapers begins Jan. 1, the city had already taken steps to have notices also published on its website, which was updated in August, in anticipation of this move and to make sure that the notice function on the site was working properly.
According to the Salina Journal, one of the main reasons for moving publication of notices online is about the city saving money. The city paid the Salina Journal, which was designated the official city newspaper until this resolution passed, $37,258 in 2023, $42,000 in 2022 and $53,600 in 2021 to publish notices.
In addition to moving most notices to the city’s website, the commission also made a decision on what to do with other notices which the state requires to have published in a “newspaper of general circulation.” Two options for these specific notices were given to the commission: continuing to publish them in the Journal, or to move to Salina 311, a twice-weekly newspaper in Salina.
These legal notices are a fraction of the total budget these cities spend during the course of a calendar year, and we believe it remains vitally important that they (particularly city, county, school, etc. minutes) are printed in the local newspaper. Why? Because this makes those notices VIP. Verifiable, Independent and Permanent.
Having a city post its own legal notices online is tantamount to having the fox guard the henhouse. The legal notices could be changed at any time for any reason. It’s not far fetched to think somewhere there are politicians who would manipulate the offical record of a meeting to suit their own purposes. They could omit things, change things—there’s really no end to the way the official record could be fudged when the entity that produces those minutes has unfettered access to altering them.
Newspapers are referred to as the government watchdog for a reason. Several times a year we have people come into the Chronicle who want to look at old meeting minutes, sometimes from many years ago. These things matter to a properly functioning government that is not above accountability.
We disagree with the movement of putting legal notices only online (although we do put them online at the website  sdpublic, because once they are in print, they cannot be changed by anybody. That’s the way it should be, now and forever.

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