Critical Thinking: Why Should Governments Continue to Post Public Notices in Newspapers?

By: Nu Yang

Critical Thinking: Why Should Governments Continue to Post Public Notices in Newspapers?

Q: What would be your strongest argument for why governments should continue to post public notices in newspapers?    

Alison Noon, 20
Junior, University of Colorado, Boulder

Noon is studying journalism and political science. She is an editor and reporter at CU Independent, CU’s only student news outlet. She is an intern reporter at The Greeley Tribune in northern Colorado, and this summer she will be reporting for The Colorado Springs Gazette.  

A: In America, a proactive democracy is more effective than a reactive one. The president’s State of the Union address was originally an annual report to Congress, and although the address has evolved into a public appearance and political opportunity in the decades since, its foundation shows the practicality of communication between branches of government. Open discussion furthers the effectiveness of all areas of democracy (hence the First Amendment).  

As an essential fourth estate in the American government, one that speaks directly to the people (as opposed to “of the people,” like Congress), the press is afforded a relationship similar to the one between the three branches. Information is, in effect, worthless after a relevant period of time when discussion can be made to advance the subject. This is why journalists structure their lives around deadlines and report information when it is of use to the public.  

Public notices are essential pieces of information. Government should make use of the press’s operation as a fourth estate and subsequent relationship by continuing to post such notices for open discussion in advance of ramifications where they will be of use to citizens: media properties such as newspapers.      

Darrell Ehrlick, 37
Editor, Casper (Wy.) Star-Tribune
Ehrlick is editor of the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s statewide news source. He has previously worked for newspapers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and North Dakota. He has taught journalism, written two books, and is the recipient of several Lee President’s Awards.  

A: Audience. Reach. Delivery.  

The conversation about public notices in newspapers often centers on more esoteric, abstract concepts such as good government and transparency; noble sentiments, but not ones easily sold to overworked government officials looking to cut costs. The best argument isn’t an appeal to altruism. It’s that newspapers — true multimedia companies — have a better reach and audience than they’ve ever had. And, it’s still growing.   

No longer is circulation the one-and-only indicator of audience and reach. Through our websites, social media, and, of course, print, we have an audience that has grown exponentially. How many other media can boast that in the days of satellite radio and digital video recording? It’s not just that we have more audience; it’s that we can reach out to them on so many platforms and in different ways. No longer is our reach static.  

We deliver content and engage our audience in whatever way they’re most comfortable. They respond and interact in growing numbers. Readers are truly invested in our content, including public notices. We also have the most sophisticated delivery systems available. Whether job postings, bids, or meeting notices, we work with government to reach those interested. We target the audience. Lectures about good government and transparency are rarely persuasive enough when officials face tough budget decisions. That’s why we must communicate in exactly those terms: No other media offers a greater audience, a wider reach, and better delivery at such an economical rate. Of course, more people also means more transparency and better informed citizens.

Like & Share E&P:
Follow by Email

4 thoughts on “Critical Thinking: Why Should Governments Continue to Post Public Notices in Newspapers?

  • April 16, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Having had and observed the process of business creation over the past 55 years, I would note that the present and historical process is highly ineffective in regards to reaching a public that should be targeted. Yes; some public notices appear in popular and often-read newspapers, but a majority of the required public notices are placed in publications that have been created for that specific purpose….and have extremely limited circulation. This would (and does) preclude proper notification to the general population. When I queried local government agencies regarding this procedure, I was told that as long as the letter of the law was being followed, the effectiveness of the law would not be questioned.

  • April 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Ask any marketer what medium gets the widest reach and it would be Broadcast TV. Why aren’t public notices on TV or radio or on billboards? Because it is too expensive and the government has drawn the line. But relative to online, newspapers are prohibitively expensive which is why classified advertising has fled to As the town crier was succeeded by the newspaper, it is clear that the newspapers should hand over the publishing of public notices to the internet.

  • April 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    I have a notion that hardly anyone reads public notices. I’m willing to bet less than 2% of a newspaper’s readers ever take a look. Circulation and geographic reach really don’t matter. Why shouldn’t a municipality be allowed to post those notices and maybe publicize their availability through the various media sources. And if a web site or say alternative weekly is capturing a large segment of a market that a daily or weekly is not capturing, isn’t that platform just as important? And especially at a time when the real target audience for legal notices may no longer be the newspaper reader. I’m not aware of any newspapers offering to cut their legals pricing because a large percentage of their audience is no longer relevant. Heck, the search engines, are in a much better position to deliver legal notices by requested type than any newspaper.

  • April 16, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    I live in a poor county in rural Georgia. Probably less than half the homes have internet service. I have personally seen where children learned of their parents’ bad fortune by reading the public notices. Then they were able to bail them out. They would never have gone to a website looking for the notice they didn’t expect to see. In Georgia, the notices in the newspaper are also available online, so anyone can access them.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *