Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Legal Notices Yield News

Where does news come from?

Sometimes the starting point is a legal notice. When it comes to redevelopment and governmental matters, those fine-print items in the back of the newspaper are literally all the notice necessary to let people know what’s up. Salary raises, new storm water rules, rate increases, contract awards, the creation of new city jobs, hearings on proposed development and a whole lot more are heralded in these small notices. Interested citizens can then show up at public meetings to speak out and see how officials vote on these matters.

When I saw a legal notice Jan. 5 about a proposal for a new, five-story building with 80 residential units downtown, it struck me as possible news. I filled out an Open Public Records Act form and asked to see the documents on file in the Planning Division.
The documents fleshed out the proposal and included the developer’s phone number. I made a call and got comments from him. Then the question was, should I write it for the blog or should I pitch it as a freelance story? Based on the fact that I get paid for freelancing, that decision was easy.

So soon there was an A-1 story in the newspaper that was a lot more eye-catching than the legal notice. The application is up for a hearing at the Planning Board Thursday. The board may approve or deny the application, but at least people who want to follow the action know enough to attend the meeting.

On Sunday, a neighbor tipped me off to something going on downtown. I walked over and gathered information and comments for another A-1 freelance story.

Both of these stories are still online at the Courier News under “Past week’s news.” They will soon go into the paid archive. Click here and here to see them now.

I must say that
I have often felt inclined
to scoop the newspaper
once I spot
a newsworthy legal notice item.
You have to know what you are looking at and then you have to be able to convert it to a readable story. In 2007, I was able to get out news both on the blog and in the newspaper. In my current malaise over blogging, I am more inclined to go for the check than for the warm fuzzies. Either way, I still get the brickbats, but if I get paid, I can go shopping and forget about my detractors.

--Bernice Paglia


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