Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature enacted a new law that will hit the pocketbooks of New Jersey’s daily newspapers, and the revenue-strapped management are unlikely to be pleased that it happened under the noses of their reporting teams.
Murphy signed a bill on Friday that ends the longtime practice of publishing a complete list of addresses for every polling location in the newspaper. That’s several pages of legal advertising for every county at least twice a year that cuts thousands of dollars in revenues from the newspapers.
Legal advertisements placed by Monmouth and Ocean counties in the Asbury Park Press in advance of the June 19 primary election took up several pages.
Instead, the legal notice simply needs to direct voters to the Board of Elections website and print the phone number in the ad.
“This new law provides the added benefit of helping to save county taxpayer’s money by eliminating the need for boards of elections to publish long lists of polling locations that do not do the job of informing voters where they need to go,” said State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence), who sponsored the bill with Patrick Diegnan (D-South Plainfield).
Diegnan said his bill “brings New Jersey into the computer age.”
“A voter can now simply go to the county webpage and locate their polling location,” Diegnan said. “It brings about efficiency while saving tax dollars.”
Both houses passed the bill unanimously.
New Jersey’s daily papers went ballistic in 2016 when Gov. Chris Christie pushed legislation to demolish a state law requiring legal notices be printed in the newspaper, instead allowing those notices to be posted on the Internet.
At the time, the Star-Ledger estimated that about 7% of their revenues came from legal advertising.
The newspapers, acting as unregistered lobbyists of sorts, advocated strongly to protect their revenues – something some legislators called subsidies. The bill was ultimately withdrawn.
Gannett, which owns seven daily newspapers in New Jersey including the Asbury Park Press, is now in talks to merge with GateHouse Media, the owner of the Burlington County Times. GateHouse recently acquired the New Jersey Herald.
If that GateHouse deal goes through, 14 of New Jersey’s 16 daily newspapers will be controlled by two companies: Gannett/Gatehouse and Advance Publications.Legal Advertising APP 2019 primary