Why public notices should be in print and online

  • Florida Press Association
    Florida Press Association
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By the Florida Press Association

 The public would rather get their notice in the newspaper – a survey conducted by Mason Dixon Polling & Research in 2019 shows that 83 percent of Floridians say that state and local governments should be required to publish public notices in the newspaper on a regular basis.

According to the same study, most Floridians (68 percent) were unlikely to seek out public notices if they were posted on a government web site and not available in a printed or online newspaper.

(Government web sites typically have “Unique Visitors” counted in the hundreds, while newspapers have reach in the tens of thousands and provide a significantly greater reach to their communities via the printed version, their web sites and at www.floridapublicnotices.com.)

Making government officials responsible for notifying the public on their own websites carries with it a potential for abuse. For example, it may create the temptation to change or manipulate the timing of public notices. If a scheduled public notice is not published or contains false information, the newspaper is more likely to catch the mistake.

A million Floridians do not have Internet access (5.7 percent), according to a Nielsen Scarborough report from 2019.

Large segments of Florida’s population, including elderly and minority populations cannot afford computers and monthly access fees.

The public’s right to know shouldn’t be abandoned in favor of presumed cost savings. In addition to printed newspapers, Florida’s newspapers (provided by FPA) operate a supplemental public notice web site, www.floridapublicnotices.com, allowing free and unlimited searchable access to public notices aggregated from Florida newspapers.

State and local governments, attorneys and private citizens rely on this documentation to ensure that notices are published in a timely and lawful manner, as newspapers are required by law to do.

Government posting of government notices on government websites removes third-party neutrality, making government officials responsible for notifying the public on their own websites carries with it a potential for abuse. For example, it may create the temptation to change or manipulate the timing of public notices. If a scheduled public notice is not published or contains false information, the newspaper is more likely to catch the mistake.

Government-run websites don’t provide legal affidavits, written proof of publication, or a secure and verifiable paper trail. State and local governments, attorneys and private citizens rely on this documentation to ensure that notices are published in a timely and lawful manner, as newspapers are required by law to do.