Editorial – Public Notice Bill Update

From the Editors Desk

By Cindy Merckx, Editor Sentinel of Gloucester County Weekly Newspaper

    It has been another busy week at the Editors Desk. The Bill to ‘kill newspapers’ had editors across the State camped out in Trenton on Monday and for right now the Bill that would put legal notices on-line and not in newspapers is ‘postponed.’ I heard from many of our readers last week and several made phone calls to the legislative offices in the 3rd and 4th Districts to ask them to vote ‘no’ on this bill that was fast-tracked under a cloud of suspicion. Senator Fred Madden and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty called me on Monday and assured me that they would be speaking about my concerns with this bill. Thank you for your support in this matter. I informed them that I made several attempts to speak to Senator Sweeney and was unsuccessful. I did speak to Sweeney’s aide Alan on Friday and expressed to him my concerns.
Transparency is very important; especially to those in political office. My opinion is that keeping legal notices in ‘both’ the newspapers and on-line assures that everyone is being notified. Many times I would cover meetings and hear people say that they weren’t notified about an ordinance or change. Officials would respond that they published the information in the newspaper and residents would say that they didn’t read a newspaper. When a town, fire or school district puts their information such as a budget or capital purchase on their website, people will often complain that they went to the website and it was not posted. I also hear comments from people who don’t own a computer and can’t afford cable. Then there are those who will tell you that their computer isn’t working or the cable was out etc. To me the best line of defense is to place the information in both the newspaper and on the computer to be as transparent as possible. The great thing about a newspaper is that it is printed and you receive a notarized affidavit of publication that gives you written proof that you took time to publish a notice that could not be tampered with.
There are those who like to read a book and others who prefer to read on-line. Statistics say about 20% of folks do not use a computer and the number one reason is that they fear that their personal information (bank accounts, etc) will be hacked or stolen. Many of my subscribers are over the age of 50 and most of them say they enjoy the newspaper because it has ‘local’ information about the schools, crime, obituaries, events and especially the ‘puzzles.’ Not everyone reads the public notices each week whether on-line or off; so in my opinion lets just be safe all the way around and cover your bases with the public on both counts. This way if your clerk didn’t get the information on your website at least it was listed in the newspaper!
On a better note, I want to wish all of our readers a very ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah (Chanukah).’ I hope you take time to enjoy the holiday spirit with your loved ones and in keeping with the holiday tradition of newspapers across America, it is my pleasure as the editor of the Sentinel of Gloucester County weekly newspaper to reprint the newspaper editorial below that has appeared for many years in this newspaper as well as others of a letter written by eight year old Virginia O’Hanlon who wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, that was answered by Francis P. Church in 1897. This is an all time traditional favorite that was originally published by the New York Sun on September 21, 1897.

Dear Editor:
I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun it’s so.”
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”
Virginia O’Hanlon
115 West Ninety Fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginia’s. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody see Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God, he lives, and he lives forever! A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.