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Hernando Sun publisher asks for county’s support in fighting ‘news desert’ designation

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by LISA MACNEIL

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Our very own Publisher, Julie Maglio came to the board of county commissioners to speak of the Hernando Sun’s oasis in the “news desert” that is Hernando County, identified as such by the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) School of Journalism.

“A ‘news desert’ means there are not a lot of local news sources in our county,”  Maglio explained. 

When asked about her company t-shirt stating, “Kind of a Big Deal in Japan,”  Maglio explained that reporters from the Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun came to talk to her and co-founder Rocco Maglio because they run a locally-owned, locally-focused paper, “because it’s something that’s very rare.”  Tokyo Shimbun, a major newspaper with a distribution of approximately 3 million asked about their struggles as a local paper.  

“I’m here to ask you for your support in helping us not be a ‘news desert,’” Maglio started.  

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The Hernando Sun has a contract with Hernando County to publish legal notices, but has yet to receive the first request.  “We’re very grateful for that opportunity,” Maglio said, recalling the final decision that came at the end of 2018.

Six months into 2019, Maglio asked the board if there is a problem that needs to be addressed.  “We would love to have your support, and (publish) your notices.  We’re a local paper, we should be publishing Hernando county notices.” 

Maglio urged open communication with the board, which could ultimately change the landscape of the ‘news desert.’ 

County Administrator Jeff Rogers addressed Julie Maglio’s inquiry, saying “We’ll look into the legal notices.  I know we approved it.  I’m not sure what the status (is) of where we publicize, but I’ll let you know.  I know part of our policies is that larger distributions would go into a larger paper that have a larger distribution area, like when we do RFP (Request for Proposal) for bids. Those would need to go to areas that have a larger distribution.  We do bids that are only local areas, those would go into a local paper. As for the legal notices, I’ll find out about that.”

After the meeting, Maglio told this reporter, “It’s frustrating when people don’t realize the value in a local newspaper, the benefit we’re bringing to the community.  The county has an opportunity support the local newspaper and I hope they take advantage of it.  Local newspapers are heavily invested in the community.  Readers of the local newspaper should have the opportunity to know what projects are going out to bid and upcoming public hearings.”

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