Make full use of public notice advertising

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Steve Key
Steve Key

By Steve Key

Public notice advertising is a vital component of newspapers in two ways.

First, it’s part of the package of laws that requires state and local government to be transparent. The Open Door Law requires public meetings by governing bodies. The Access to Public Records Act gives citizens the right to see government records. The Public Notice Advertising Law requires government to give its citizens a heads up about actions taken or contemplated.

Secondly, public notice advertising is a reliable source of income not only for the small town weekly but increasingly so for the city daily.

Given these points, are Indiana newspapers giving public notice advertising the attention it deserves?

Does the reporter read public notices to find ones published by public agencies that make up his or her beat?

I hate to hear about instances when a reporter calls up a public official incensed over not being informed of a hearing only to be told that the notice was published in the newspaper with the added comment – “Don’t you read your own newspaper?”

Does the editor read public notices to find stories hidden in the legal jargon?

The impact of sheriff’s sales (mortgage foreclosures) on communities could be documented on many fronts – from the personal tragedies of families losing homes and the impact on real estate values in communities with numerous sales to the businesses that have thrived due to the sales.

Is there a protocol that ensures the advertising department is communicating with the newsroom when public officials, attorneys or private citizens submit public notices?

This allows the editor to have the Page 1 story printed on the same day that the public notice that sparked the story is published.

Do newspapers promo the public notice advertising section? Are we reminding Hoosiers where information concerning local government actions can be found without the need of a Google search or constant check of multiple websites controlled by various units of local government?

Are newspapers taking the time to add a line of explanation to public notices calling for “Request for Qualifications” or “Request for Proposals” so that a reader might better understand what the notices concern?

This might encourage more people to read the notices.

We in the newspaper industry need to cultivate public notice advertising to realize its full value for the public and papers.

The 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly had two bills filed that would have eliminated public notice advertising by allowing state and local government to post notices on the Internet as an alternative.

With property tax cap-induced budget crunches, I fully expect to see similar bills filed again in the 2012 General Assembly.

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If President Barack Obama had been born in Indiana, he would have not had a birth record controversy, a southern Indiana managing editor pointed out.

IC 16-37-2-9 requires the county health department to create a permanent record made from the birth certificate that must be made available for inspection and copying.

The record includes the child’s name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, names of parents, birthplace of parents and date of the filing of the certificate of birth.

Only an adopted child’s record is kept confidential.

Steve Key is executive director and general counsel for HSPA.