Saturday, January 17, 2009

High Bidder Blues

We wondered when it would start. It has. The editors at the Northwest Arkansas Times have begun their pitch to justify getting the city contract for publishing public notices while submitting the high bid, and the bidding has not yet been announced. No doubt they need the money, but submitting the low bid is a better way to get the contract, not whining because the competition offers a better deal. Where's all that free market malarkey they are always spouting?

They say it's not about the money, and you know what that always means. It's about the money. The lame argument they trot out is that the NWA Times is a Fayetteville paper and that The Morning News is a Springdale paper. Right. The corporate owners of both newspapers live in Little Rock. Both newspapers have offices, editors, and reporters in Fayetteville, and neither paper is printed in Fayetteville.

Then the editors try to shame the aldermen and claim that giving the contract to any other newspaper would mean they are cheap and care not a whit about informing the public. Following this logic, our City Council would be duty bound to pay whatever price the Times wanted to charge. Fifty bucks a column inch? A hundred? Sure, why not, when the alternative is to be attacked by the newspaper for going with a lower responsible bidder, and it's just taxpayers' money, anyway, so screw them. Fortunately, that profligate attitude is changing at City Hall.

Running public notices in the Northwest Arkansas Times might not be the best way for the city to communicate with the majority of its residents, and even that paper's managing editor says there are more ubiquitous and less expensive channels, but it is certainly the most expensive. "Oh, but we have more readers," say the editors of the newspaper one cannot unsubscribe from if you want to read state and national news in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

If the Times wants to keep the printing monopoly contract and thinks that is really in the public interest, let them submit the low bid and stop demanding to milk the city cash cow by right. A lower amount of advertising revenue is better than none at all. Boo Hussman knows that well.

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