By Gretchen A. Peck
Author’s Note: The relationship between newspapers and Public Notice authors is being challenged across the U.S. What does this mean for newspapers and the public? I took a look at the issue in the October 2018 issue of Editor & Publisher magazine.
If you look closely at the fine print just below the banner logo for PublicNoticeAds.com, a single-source searchable database for legal ads published by “participating newspapers” across the country, it reads: “The public notice database on this site is not a substitute for the official publication that is required by law. You will still find those notices in your local newspaper.”
On the site’s homepage are links to each to state with “participating newspapers,” though most simply redirect the browser to other websites of a similar design. For example, clicking on the link to Connecticut redirects the user to Connecticut public notices, which is “powered by MyPublicNotices.com.” From there, users can click on individual links to public notices on individual websites for each newspaper title, or search notices published in any of the state’s local and regional titles.
In fact, legally mandated public notices are already prevalently available online and digitally redundant to what’s published in printed newspapers. In addition to these sites, they are also found on government-maintained sites, legal sites and on many newspaper-branded websites.
Yet, in several states just this year, legislators have proposed bills that would allow for public notices to bypass print altogether, possibly narrowing access to information and starving newspapers of the revenue derived from publishing information of this kind.
Given the legislative effort that feels coordinated and party-centric, E&P went in search of who and what was behind the lobby for this legislation and answers to what it would mean to newspapers if printed public notices become obsolete.