Public notices important to keep in papers
Published: Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Our readers of both the Custer County Chronicle and Hill City Prevailer News may have observed ads and columns in the newspapers this month concerning VIP Public Notices in the Newspaper. The South Dakota Newspaper Association has designated this month as Public Notices Month in South Dakota. You might ask yourself, what is the big deal about public notices? Nobody reads those things in smaller type anymore, right?
Wrong. Newspaper readership is holding steady despite the onslaught of broadcast and digital media. More than seven in 10 South Dakotans read their local newspaper every day and every week, according to a Pulse Research, Inc. survey of 500 South Dakota households in October 2011. In fact, newspapers have jumped right into the digital age with their own up-to-date websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep their readers informed on the latest news and happenings in their coverage areas.
More than half of all South Dakotans surveyed say they read government public notices in their local newspaper on a regular basis. Like most newspapers, we have staff members at many local city, county and school public governmental official meetings. We are your eyes and ears at these important meetings.
But we can’t possibly report on every action taken by the city council, county commission or district school board. That’s why it’s important that these proceedings be published in a readily accessible medium like your local newspaper. Unfortunately, some government officials, not necessarily at the local level, are adamant about putting these public notices solely on an obscure government-controlled website instead of in your local newspaper.
This should be of concern to everyone and not just newspapers. Who will upload and archive these public meeting notices for future generations? Right now, South Dakota law requires these governmental entities to publish their meeting minutes within 10 days. These minutes are printed as a permanent record in local newspapers and also uploaded at no charge by SDNA to a website at www.sdpublicnotices.com.
The “V” in “VIP” stands for verifiable. The newspaper is accessible to all segments of the public and is trusted as a valid, credible source for public notices. These public notices are valuable to taxpayers who want to know what their government officials are doing at these meetings.
The “I” in “VIP” stands for independent. The local newspaper delivers an independent, third-party check in the process of informing the public about the business of government. These public notices are important because they ensure transparency and accountability in government.
The “P” in “VIP” stand for permanent. Public notices in the newspaper cannot be altered, manipulated or deleted. Once they are in print, they become a permanent record of governmental proceedings. The same cannot be said in the digital world where just about anything can be hacked or changed.
Public notices in the newspaper put the public first. Good government depends on informed citizens who need regular, timely information that only newspapers can provide. Not everyone in South Dakota has access to a computer, so publication of these government meeting notices becomes more important than ever to these folks especially.
Governmental entities usually use cost as a reason to put their meeting minutes on a website, but somebody has to maintain that website. Also, if you look at the very end of these public notices you will find the cost of the publication, plus its percentage of the annual budget,which is a pittance compared to an annual city, county or school budget amount.
This is a relatively small sum of money a governmental body uses to keep its citizenry informed of its proceedings in the local newspaper which comes into the homes of its constituents. Most people today still prefer to hold their newsaper in their hands.
We believe that’s where public notices need to be instead of on some obscure government-controlled website.
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