Sanjeev "Sonny" Bhagowalia

BY JIM DOOLEY – Hawaii’s newspapers will continue collecting some $1 million for at least another year to print government legal notices, according to the state’s Chief Information Officer.

Bills to allow electronic publication of such ads and notices are pending before the state Senate and House of Representatives.

The House Finance Committee voted to defer one measure following testimony from Sanjeev

Sanjeev "Sonny" Bhagowalia

“Sonny” Bhagowalia, Chief Information Officer in Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s administration.

I think I’m saying provide a one-year hiatus so that … everyone’s given one year to set up our site, one year (of) continuing with the way we do business,” Bhagowalia told the committee.

After that, he said, legal ads can migrate to a state-operated website.

“We will always have some portion that will be reserved for print media,” said Bhagowalia.  “And that will continue and I think that we can reach some sort of agreement on that.”

But electronic publication is coming, he said.

“Maybe the world has changed and has now gone (to the) internet so it’s time to change or be changed,” he said.

Newspaper publishers have opposed the idea, saying print media are reliable, readily accessible venues for the ads.

Honolulu Star Advertiser executives told lawmakers last week their publication, the sole remaining general circulation newspaper in Honolulu, bills the state $890,000 annually for legal ads.

The ad revenues jumped substantially after two newspapers, the Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star Bulletin merged in 2010 and higher rates began to be assessed.

Star Advertiser senior vice president Dave Kennedy called the $890,000 figure “a very small proportion of our overall revenue.”

He said money wasn’t the most important issue.

“The bottom-line issue here isn’t about revenue for us; it’s about public access and the public’s right to know. That’s something we in the news business take very seriously,” Kennedy testified.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com