Specifically, Christie is reviving a proposed revision to existing legislation that would remove the requirement for government agencies to publish legal notices in newspapers. Instead, it would allow them to simply publish the notices on their own Web sites. The change would be another blow to newspapers’ already perilous financial stability amid a continuing long-term decline in print advertising revenue.
In mounting the new push, Christie cited new evidence that appeared to show public spending on legal notices in newspapers was higher than previously reported. Specifically, Christie said that one newspaper, the Star-Ledger, had alone received $16.6 million in legal ads.
Previously, the New Jersey Press Association had claimed all newspapers in the state together received just $20 million in spending on public notices, with just $8 million coming from public sources – far lower than Christie’s original estimate of $80 million – and the rest from private sources.
If true, however, Christie’s data on spending in the Star-Ledger would indicate the NJPA estimate was too low; however the NJPA swiftly promised a rebuttal, disproving Christie’s assertion. It said it would produce “an aggregated statewide number of monies spent for the publication of legal notices for 2016” by the end of this month.
While Christie has presented the proposed rule change as a much-needed reduction in wasteful spending, newspaper publishers claim it is actually retribution for their frequent criticisms of the governor, including editorials attacking his support for Donald Trump’s presidential bid and the involvement of close aides in the “Bridgegate” scandal.
The bill was first considered last year, but was tabled in December after Christie’s allies failed to gather enough support in the state Assembly.