Newspapers are reliable source for public notices

This is Public Notice Week in Tennessee. Over the next few days, we and other newspapers in this state want to call attention to one of the most sacred roles we fill — keeping you informed of vital government meetings, land transactions and other legal proceedings that by state law require public notices.
We believe this week is crucial for educating not only our readers, but state lawmakers on the importance of public notices. There are some legislators who want to remove public notices from newspapers and allow governments to place them on hard-to-find government websites under the excuse of saving money. This would do great injury to the citizens of Tennessee who have traditionally looked to their local newspapers to keep them informed of these public notices.
Before state law required these notices to be printed in local newspapers of record, they were hammered on signboards near the courthouse. These notices could sometimes be hard to find and even harder to read.
Proponents of removing public notices from newspapers will argue that we have a vested financial interest in the matter. It’s true — removing public notices would represent a great loss of revenue for some newspapers. But this issue is not about profits or even precedent. It’s about the average citizen of this state having easy and reliable access to public notices. There are many Tennesseans who are active in their communities, but who are not online and have no desire to be. How would they have access to these notices if they are only published on a website?
Publication of these public notices in local newspapers represent an accessible permanent record that cannot be forged or altered by a computer hacker. Newspapers have been a trusted source for these public notices for decades and there is no reason we shouldn’t continue in that role for years to come.
Robert Houk
Opinion Page Editor
Johnson City Press