Reader's Corner

Ongoing legislative battles put public notices in peril

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If you look closely at the fine print just below the banner logo for PublicNoticeAds.com, a single-source searchable database for legal ads published by "participating newspapers" across the country, it reads: "The public notice database on this site is not a substitute for the official publication that is required by law. You will still find those notices in your local newspaper."

On the site's homepage are links to each to state with "participating newspapers," though most simply redirect the browser to other websites of a similar design. For example, clicking on the link to Connecticut redirects the user to Connecticut public notices, which is "powered by MyPublicNotices.com." From there, users can click on individual links to public notices on individual websites for each newspaper title, or search notices published in any of the state's local and regional titles.

In fact, legally mandated public notices are already prevalently available online and digitally redundant to what's published in printed newspapers. In addition to these sites, they are also found on government-maintained sites, legal sites and on many newspaper-branded websites.

Yet, in several states just this year, legislators have proposed bills that would allow for public notices to bypass print altogether, possibly narrowing access to information and starving newspapers of the revenue derived from publishing information of this kind.

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