OPED: Why we provide coverage of local government meetings
January 12, 2017
Southern Torch (3431 articles)
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OPED: Why we provide coverage of local government meetings

By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor

tyler@southerntorch.com

In last week’s regular meeting of the Fort Payne City Council, Mayor Larry Chesser put forth a contract that would have paid WLOW, a local television and media company, a sum of $7900.00 yearly to film meetings of the city government.

In a special work session called on Tuesday, January 10, the Fort Payne City Council decided to unanimously reject that proposal. We would like to applaud the Fort Payne City Council for this decision.

For the last several years, our organization has made it our job to provide the citizens of both Rainsville and Fort Payne with coverage of their city council at work, along with providing all citizens of DeKalb with video of their county commission at work. If it did not require an impressive amount of manpower to achieve, we would gladly provide video coverage of all municipal governments at work within the county.

Providing this coverage is in the spirit of our state’s Open Meeting Laws, or what some refer to as, “sunshine laws.” These regulations ensure that any citizen may have access to municipal meetings, and our coverage is to help ensure that even if concerned citizens can’t make it to the meetings, they have easy access to a video recording of these meetings.

While we are a for-profit organization, video coverage of the council meetings are free of charge to both the cities we cover and the taxpayers who view them. Our profits are derived from the ads on our website and in print, and we believe that providing the citizens with local government coverage is just our role in the ongoing effort to ensure accountability of our elected officials and transparency at the local level. This is a role we do not take lightly and we’re extremely proud that many citizens in this fine county trust us to provide this information.

While this latest attempt to discourage us fell flat on it’s face, an earlier attempt in Rainsville to pay a news organization to provide news was successful. The Rainsville City Council and Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt passed an advertising budget and only included Mountain Valley News in the funds allocated and meeting notices sent by the city.

To put this into perspective, it’s necessary to pose a question to our readers and the citizens: How frequently in the last year have you been informed of what’s going on in your city or county by The Mountain Valley News or WLOW? We’d bet $7900 it’s not very many…..

Also ask yourself this: if you were a business owner, how would you decide on which news outlet to spend your advertising dollars? It seems to make good business sense (and common sense) to spend the money with an organization whose content is viewed by the most people in the given area.

On an average week, our website is viewed by roughly 10,000 people, with sometimes this number reaching as much as 40,000. Not to mention the countless people who pick up our print paper each week.
While we are a business, we are proud to bring you this coverage for free, and believe it’s our small role we play in making DeKalb County an even better place to live. We certainly welcome any advertising clients that believe we will be beneficial towards their goals, but it’s our privilege to cover these meetings, and we will continue to do so.

No matter how much of the taxpayer’s money is thrown around to discourage it.

Southern Torch

Southern Torch

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