A state agency has decided to sacrifice a broader access to public information to save mere fractions of pennies on the dollar of its budget.
And it's using weak logic with little statistical substance to argue for this course of action.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management recently announced it would stop using newspapers to publish notices of air permits, which notify the public of the legally permitted levels of pollution allowed in individual communities.
The move will mean tens of thousands of regular newspaper readers will no longer have this information at their fingertips through regular publications.
IDEM claims it will save a paltry $17,000 in advertising costs with the move.
But is there any real savings to taxpayers? The $17,000 represents a mere 0.07 percent of IDEM's $22.9 million annual general fund and far less than that fraction of the $141.8 million in total funds — state and federal — passing through IDEM's coffers on a yearly basis.
Meanwhile, IDEM's website attracts an average of 105 visitors per week, according the Hoosier State Press Association.
A 2017 HSPA survey revealed 3.6 million Hoosiers, or 77 percent of the state’s adults, read a newspaper at least once a week, in print or online. Some 63 percent of those surveyed said they supported publication of such government notices in newspapers, even when it costs government money.
“In the end, newspapers are a whole lot more effective in disseminating this information than government websites,” said Hoosier State Press Association Executive Director Steve Key.
Logic and desire for the greatest possible public access indicates continuing to place these notices in newspapers is the best government practice.
In an online notice, IDEM officials noted it will stop using newspapers to publish the air permit notices because a changing print industry is "making printed newspaper advertisements less effective in providing widespread public notice of permit actions."
Industry numbers show otherwise.
IDEM should rethink its position on publication of the notices. Public information and the best possible service of Indiana residents hang in the balance.