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Public notices on government websites? Who would notice? at Buzz Trexler

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Public notices on government websites? Who would notice?

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The undercurrent in Nashville continues to be a move by some to eliminate statutory publication of legal notices in general circulation newspapers in favor of publishing such notices on government websites.

Who favors such a move?

Public officials who have a beef with their local newspaper, financial and other institutions who would rather pocket an otherwise additional expense, and lawmakers who favor opaqueness rather than transparency in government.

What rationale is being used?

One young lawmaker we’re told is fond of saying, “No one reads newspapers anymore.” Maybe no one in his circle of influence reads newspapers, but then perhaps his constituents should question whether he is casting informed votes. Chances are, more than 80 percent of his constituents are better informed than the man they elected to represent their district.

To expound upon the words of Roman statesman and philosopher Marcus Cicero, there is no lie so unbelievable that if you repeat it often enough, people will come to believe the lie: The truth is,  community newspapers easily make up the largest number of newspapers in Tennessee. They are still being read and they are still being counted upon as the No. 1 place to obtain information, according to a recent study.

In a four-year study, the National Newspaper Association and University of Missouri concluded, “The local community newspaper is the primary source of information about the local community for 60 percent of respondents: that’s four times greater than the second and third most popular sources of local news (TV/14 percent and friends and relatives/13.4 percent).”

Among other findings cited by the University of Missouri study:

  • 81 percent of those surveyed read a local newspaper each week and shared their paper with 2.36 additional readers.
  • They spent about 40 minutes with their newspaper, and 73 percent read most or all of their newspaper.
  • They like to keep it around: Nearly 40 percent hang on to their papers for more than a week.
  • Three-quarters of readers read local news often to very often in their community newspaper, but 53 percent say they never read local news online; 12 percent say they read local news often to very often online.
  • Of those who do go online for local news, where do they go? Sixty-three percent go to the local newspaper’s website. (Only 12 percent go to a local TV station’s website.)
  • Lawmakers and other public officials take note: Sixty-eight percent have never visited the website of local government. Part of the reason could be because 30 percent do not even have Internet access in the home.

In short, the system we have for bringing public notices before taxpayers is not broken and changing statutory requirements to allow for merely posting them on government websites locks out a significant number of people.

Moving public notices to government websites? Who would notice?

Maybe that’s the real motivation.

It will be interesting to see the nature of such legislation and who is pushing the change.

Written by buzztrexler

February 10th, 2011 at 9:34 am

Posted in Legislature, Politics

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3 Responses to 'Public notices on government websites? Who would notice?'

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  1. Point well made, Trex.


    10 Feb 11 at 12:13 pm

  2. It is interesting that you would quote a “four year study” which means it was completed at least four years ago – probably five.

    Ask anyone around you today how many have read the news on the internet TODAY. I’m sure you’ll find a majority have. You’d probably also find that many people haven’t touched a physical newspaper in years.

    An argument for online publishing of legal notices is that it would be searchable, indexable and the information would be available FOREVER, if not at the source then in an internet cache.

    Not that the newspaper would release the information, but ask your local paper what their subscription rate is compared with the number of unique daily hits they get for the online version of their paper.

    Oh, I found your article online not in a newspaper.

    Carla Lewis

    10 Feb 11 at 2:40 pm

  3. Actually, it was completed in 2009, even so a “four-year” study does not mean the data was four years old.

    Still, independent research conducted here in Tennessee shows that one out of four Tennesseans — about 1.5 million people — do not have computers, much less Internet access. Senior citizens, economically disadvantaged and rural residents are likely disproportionately represented in that number.

    National research shows 38 percent of people over 65 never go to the Internet. That same independent, non-media research shows that 62 percent of Tennesseans obtain their information from newspaper websites. Only 37 percent of the people in the statewide survey went to state websites, while 27 percent said they had visited a local government website.

    Thanks for your comment.


    10 Feb 11 at 3:36 pm

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