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Wichita replaces The Eagle with its own website as city’s 'official' newspaper

The Wichita City Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday to make the city's website the official city newspaper. The move will end a contract with The Wichita Eagle.
Hugo Phan
/
KMUW
The Wichita City Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday to make the city's website the official city newspaper. The move will end a contract with The Wichita Eagle.

The move is expected to save the city about $120,000 a year.

The Wichita City Council decided Tuesday to use its own website as the city’s official newspaper – a move that will save the city$120,000 annually.

Under Kansas state law, cities are required to designate an official newspaper to publish all legal notices. The Wichita Eagle and the city have had a contract since 2019.

The move comes nearly a year after Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach issued a legal opinion allowing cities in Kansas to use their own website as their official newspaper instead of contracting with an independent local newspaper.

The charter ordinance and resolution passed 5-2 with council members Maggie Ballard and Mike Hoheisel voting against it.

The city first considered severing ties with its paper of record in March, but the actual vote got pushed from April to June. Since the motion’s introduction, it has received criticism from press advocates and community members over transparency.

In an effort to address the concerns, council member Becky Tuttle amended the ordinance to require the city to use a secondary print source to supplement the city’s website.

“I’m not willing to sacrifice transparency for cost savings,” Tuttle said. “I understand that we have looming budget shortfalls … I’m not completely comfortable with just having our website serve as the official newspaper.”

She said the compromise would also act as a safeguard against any technical problems with the city website and provide an alternative option for Wichitans who prefer physical copies.

However, even with the amendment, Ballard and Hoheisel still had concerns with the policy.

“Legal notices are about publishing in an independent record that is maintained in all libraries of Congress for future legal use,” Ballard said. “The website does not accomplish that.”

Tuttle’s amendment to the ordinance will allow newspapers in Wichita to apply to become a “secondary print source” for publishing legal notices.

Nour Longi is the 2024 KMUW Korva Coleman intern. She is from the Chicago suburbs and is currently a rising senior at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign majoring in journalism and minoring in political science and statistics. Since her freshman year, Nour has fostered a love for audio journalism through her work as a reporter and senior producer for the student newsroom at Illinois Public Media— central Illinois’ NPR affiliate.