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home : opinions : our views August 22, 2017

2/8/2017 10:54:00 AM
The attack on public notices
J. Patrick Reilly
Editor/Co-Publisher

By now we all have a pretty good idea how President Donald Trump feels about the media. Now we are learning how some of our elected officials in Wisconsin feel about the press.
A group of Wisconsin legislators are circulating a bill that would take public notices out of newspapers and instead place them on government websites. This would not be a good thing for the people who elected them or any tax payer.
With public trust lacking in the way government works, this would just add to problems we have with transparency in this country. Without an independent source used to provide information, there is no accountability. There is a reason that for hundreds of years governments have been required to publish public notices about their actions and decisions in newspapers.
While websites are good for information about who and how to contact someone, they are not the place people go to read public notices. I am willing to bet what our reporters say happen at meetings of governmental bodies is well read. It gives a truthful, accurate account of policy, spending and anything else that falls under what is the public's right to know.
When something is printed in a newspaper it becomes part of history. Unlike what digital news sources want you to believe, newspapers are still alive and well. We know that by the number of extra copies sold and the number of pages or fraction of pages we laminate each week.
Newspapers also archive their issues and through the Wisconsin Newspaper Association; we have a public notice website that includes every public notice published in Wisconsin. It is free and available 24/7. Check it out at www.WisconsinPublicNotices.org.
One more thing that comes into play is that not everyone has a computer. It is not fair to ask people to go to libraries or a computer site to access the information that could be available on the page of a newspaper.
Publishing legal notices is not a huge money maker for newspapers. The process is regulated so we all use the same typeface, the same leading and the same line length.
In seeing newspapers from other states, Wisconsin does more to regulate public notices then anywhere else.
Government should be about accountability and checks and balances. Taking public notices out of newspapers is not the way to go if accountability is what government wants to promote.





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