Taskforce could be path forward for public notices


Public notice. Public notice. Public notice. Sometimes it seems like that’s all we can talk about at the Hoosier State Press Association. It’s a hard topic to avoid when year-in and year-out there is legislation aimed at removing it from newspapers. It’s a hard topic to avoid because of how critical it is to due process and democratic government. It’s a hard topic to avoid when your industry has committed to providing it as a service to local government since the founding of our state.

So, we’re not avoiding it this year, nor will we next. That’s because what began as a bill to remove local government public notices out of newspapers, (H.B. 1438) was successfully amended in committee to create a taskforce to study public notice this summer. And credit where credit is due, Chairman Doug Miller (R-Elkhart) wrote the amendment to strip and insert his own bill after a discussion with HSPA because he believed the topic could use more careful consideration.

This bill could be our path forward on public notice. But only if we as an industry step up and show that newspapers provide a unique public service that can only be perfected by the Fourth Estate. That this is not a mere a subsidy for an antiquated system but part of the ecosystem that keeps our democracy living and breathing — an ecosystem that can only continue while newspapers survive.

The symbiotic relationship between local governments and newspapers has been on my mind a lot recently. You can imagine why (see above), but it’s more than that. There’s a landscape growing in Indiana that’s going to help newspapers do more than survive, it’s going to help us thrive, and that also means our small towns and cities will do better, too—as long as we preserve the process of public notices in newspapers.

There’s a landscape growing in Indiana that’s going to help newspapers do more than survive, it’s going to help us thrive …

Among several exciting announcements over the last week, the American Journalism Project shared that they are investing in Indiana with a coalition of stakeholders, including HSPA, to expand journalism across the state through grants and local journalism initiatives. Part of the project that is particularly important to HSPA is a donation from the Lumina Foundation to remove the paywall from TheStateHouseFile.com and make all of their content available to our member newspapers.

Also of note, the Indiana Supreme Court handed down a rule change to Rule 2.17 that provides judges the discretion to allow cameras and recording devices in court rooms. This decision came after a long pilot program working with HSPA and the Indiana Broadcaster’s Association and represents a landmark development in access to government for news organizations.

These encouraging developments in Indiana’s news market, and the fact that public notice not only lives to fight another year but will have an opportunity to shine, is helping our state grow into a rich landscape fertile for local journalism to thrive.

Let’s make sure we make the most of these opportunities.


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