Opinion, WVPA Sharing

Editorial: Public notice in newspapers keeps foxes away from the henhouses 

From The Public Notice Research Center:

Why did our forefathers originally decide to enact public notice laws in the first place?

After all, they were the government. Why didn’t they just publish the information they considered vital for citizens to know and be done with it?

The answer is obvious: Because they knew it wasn’t wise simply to trust those who work for the government — neither the living nor future generations — to always provide that information unless there was a legal sanction for failing to do so. They understood that men and women are fallible, and that public notice laws would be required to ensure that government officials act in a manner that serves the public and not their own interests.

As Ronald Reagan was fond of saying: “Trust, but verify.”

Requiring independent, third-party newspapers with a financial and civic interest in ensuring that public notices run in accordance with the law was our legislative ancestors’ way of verifying.

Giving government officials the means to hide public notice information that may be embarrassing, or that simply doesn’t suit their interests, is a surefire way to guarantee they’re going to do it.

It doesn’t mean they’re bad people; it’s simply human nature to seek to avoid embarrassment or criticism.

The inescapable truth is there are too many ways for public officials to hide information on websites under their exclusive control. And removing newspapers from the public notice process would eliminate an important check on that tendency and exponentially increase the risk that vital civic matters will be hidden from the public.

Newspapers also routinely report on many of the notices they publish. Moving those notices to government websites would increase the likelihood that reporters won’t see them and that the public won’t benefit from the increased exposure notices receive when the information they contain also appears in news stories.




Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter