Newspapers ensure government accountability by acting as an independent third party
Government officials must ensure that the actions of the government are transparent to the general public. Publication of public notices in newspapers, independent third parties, helps ensure that the government is accountable to the electorate. When a newspaper publishes a notice, it verifies that the government has provided proper notice to the public. Moving public notices solely to government websites will remove this important audit role.
Public notices in newspapers reach the vast majority of Americans
Unlike newspapers, government websites do not reach passive information seekers. Moving public notices to government websites would require that citizens actively search these sites looking for public notices. Public notices in newspapers, on the other hand, reach those readers who are not likely to have the time or inclination to search government websites for public notices. This is bolstered by the fact that more than 71 percent of U.S. adults (165 million) read a newspaper in print or online during the week. (Scarborough Research 2010) If government websites have the same audience reach as newspapers, those data have not been presented. Newspapers that publish public notices are required by state and local governments to demonstrate readership by providing a list of paid subscribers, submitting to outside subscription audits or maintaining postal permits.
Government websites do not provide legal affidavits and written proof of publication and a secure and verifiable paper trail
State and local governments, attorneys and private citizens rely on this documentation to ensure that these notices were published timely and lawfully as newspapers are required by law to do.
It is extremely costly for government agencies to create, maintain and secure websites in order to publish public notices
State and local governments will have to pay consultants or undertake the massive process internally to develop, maintain and – most importantly – secure websites for the distribution of public notices. Securing websites so that public notices are not altered or deleted by hackers will be the biggest expense facing state and local governments. With publication in printed newspapers, government officials do not have to worry that hackers will put into question whether the public was informed on important public issues.
Publishing public notices on government websites would put seniors, minorities and the disabled at a disadvantage
If public notices are moved to government websites, state and local governments will have difficulty notifying senior citizens and minorities of actions in the public interest. The U.S. Census Bureau’s Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2013 American Community Survey Report reported that 42 percent of senior citizens (65+ years) do not have access to the internet, with blacks at 39 percent and Hispanics at 33 percent. In 2011, Pew reported that 54 percent of people with a disability use the internet, compared with 81 percent of adults who are not disabled.