Public Notice

Public notices in newspapers are part of the three-legged stool of government accountability. Public notices help to inform the public on activities by the government and other public entities. Public notices have been included in newspapers from the beginning of the Republic. Now they are also on many newspapers’ websites.

A valid public notice should have four key elements:

  • It should be published in a medium independent of the government or other entity compelled to provide notice.
  • It should be verifiable so that citizens can satisfy themselves that notice was properly given. An affidavit from the newspaper attesting to the type and date of publication is the typical verification, and these are often used in litigation to demonstrate that due process requirements were met.
  • It should be archivable so that future generations can retrieve it.
  • It should be accessible to a broad range of people. Surveys demonstrate that a wide majority of citizens believe public notices should be in newspapers.

 

Public notice resources

The public notices in most newspapers appear in the classified section. In some states, that is because state law considers them classified ads. In others, it's simply tradition. They've been there for all of our lives. Lewis and Clark used public notices. Most state constitutions were drawn up with the help of public notices.

Lockwood elevates the art of public notice journalism

May 4, 2018

Examining the public notice display in newspapers, their tombstone layout and dry legalese might not appear to be riveting journalism. But scratch beneath the surface and you might find a treasure trove of great stories.

Small West Virginia town has a secrecy habit

May 4, 2018

If a contest was held for the least transparent city government in the U.S., the small town of Williamson, WV, would have to be considered a strong contender.

MI reporter wins public notice journalism award

April 9, 2018

Garret Ellison, a reporter for MLive and The Grand Rapids Press, was named winner of the Public Notice Resource Center’s 2018 Public Notice Journalism Award.

Public officials dismissed over notice issues

December 28, 2017

The failure to publish proper notice is rarely punished, so it was surprising to see local officials in Maine and Illinois recently relieved of their positions as a result of breakdowns in the public notice process. The sacked officials compounded their problems with other missteps, but notice issues were at the center of both dismissals.

More newspapers should do this

October 16, 2017

NC governor’s veto stands

September 13, 2017

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a bad public notice bill is safe for now.

Dark clouds dissipate on public notice front

July 11, 2017

The year began with a bang but may end with a whimper.

 

Maine Legislature overrides governor’s veto

June 12, 2017

We have found a governor whose animus for newspapers might exceed that of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s.

 

Nevada is the latest public notice trouble spot

May 3, 2017

Legislation that would authorize radio and TV station websites to publish public notices in Nevada has become a serious threat to newspapers in the state, according to the Nevada Press Association. Senate Bill 218 would establish broadcaster websites as an alternative to newspapers for all legislatively mandated notices in the state, including foreclosure notices and other private-party public declarations.

 

WI, MO on high alert as public notice bills churn through state legislatures

April 12, 2017

More than 120 public notice bills have been introduced in at least 37 different states through the first week of March, raising varying levels of concern among newspaper publishers and state press associations around the country. The only states where the danger signs are flashing red, however, appear to be Wisconsin and Missouri.

 

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