For three-fourths of my life I have worked in the media. I spent the first ten years working in radio. During that time, as a disc jockey, I wasn’t concerned with much other than entertaining my audience.
In the beginning of my newspaper career, which goes back 50 years, I spent most of my energy selling advertisements. When I became publisher of this newspaper 34 years ago I became more involved with issues that affect the lives of our readers.
The latest issue came last week with Senate Bill 48 that was passed by the Kentucky legislature that affects “Open Records” legislation. As the Executive Director of the Kentucky Press Association put it in a letter to Gov. Beshear, “Senate Bill 48 that was rushed through in the closing hours of the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly, is a disastrous attack on Kentucky’s Open Records Law.
The bill amends the Open Records Act in unprecedented—and unnecessary—ways that will deprive the public of access to information that has long been available to it and is likely to have negative consequences for a wide range of basic commercial and governmental business across Kentucky.
The Kentucky Press Association and its 150 newspaper members across the Commonwealth request the legislation be vetoed.”
I am exhausted with the many years of legislation in Frankfort that affect newspapers and your rights to know. The SB 48 legislation is not the only attack that has been made, it is just the latest one. It is as if some of our legislators want to pull the shades and close the door so the public will not be aware of its actions except through their press releases and public appearances.
Oh yes,they like their pictures on the front page and they like it when we publish their press releases. Then why aren’t they asking themselves questions about legislation that will hurt the media that serves them as well as the public?
Here is an example of why the Gov. Beshear should veto the Bill; About this time each year, county clerks start the process of publishing a list of delinquent taxpayers in the local newspaper. It’s required by law with a 1/2 page notification the week prior that the list is going to be published in that newspaper and a time frame for delinquent taxpayers to ante up or see their name in the paper.
Then the next week, the list is published with the name, address and amount of taxes owed by the individual. You pay your taxes, then why shouldn’t we expose those who don’t?
So let’s say Senate Bill 48 becomes law. Guess what SB 48 in its final form would have prevented? Name, address and any financial information related to a law enforcement officer, prosecutor, attorney, even a blood relative of one of those.
So if a police officer, judge, prosecutor or other covered by the law doesn’t want to pay his/her county taxes, who’s to know? The clerk won’t be able to include that identifying information in the list of delinquent taxpayers so it’s us, the real law abiding citizens, who won’t have an idea the police chief or the circuit judge or the second cousin twice removed doesn’t pay up.
That is just one item from a list of many in that Bill which would reduce the public’s right to know.
One of the most valuable assets we have in America is freedom of the press. Obviously we would not want to be like Russia or China where the government controls every aspect of its actions.
By passing SB 48 our legislators have unnecessarily taken away public access to information that the public has the right to know.
Here is a suggestion to those who represent us. Why not do all you can to support your local media? It would be a sad day if the public could only rely on the Internet for its information. For sure you would not get the fair and truthful coverage you get in your newspaper.