By Paul Gorski
According to “Sosnowski calls for public notices to be pulled from papers” by Shane Nicholson, State Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford/Belvidere) wants to “end the publication of public and government notices in newspapers.”
I strongly oppose that ill-advised plan. Public, especially government, notices of meetings, hearings and other important events should be posted in local newspapers as it is in the public interest to do so. We cannot have a free, open, deliberative government unless we know when our public bodies are meeting to discuss important issues.
As Nicholson’s article points out, many governments do not properly post public notices online, and the public does not appear to go to the sites that have these notices. One sure way of hiding or burying a public notice is to publish it only online.
One benefit of having notices posted in newspapers is that each newspaper prints public notices in a consistent manner; readers do not have to learn how to navigate the newspaper to find the notices, like they might have to do with a variety of different government websites.
Sosnowski states his plan is “Just trying to move us into the 20th century. Internet has been around for a while. Maybe next year we can work on the 21st.” I do not buy that argument at all. By that reasoning, people should stop buying printed Bibles and read the good book on their Kindles. While some people may prefer an e-reading device for this use, I’m pretty sure printed Bible sales are still strong. I am also fairly certain that most churches prefer printed Bibles. Get important information out in as many ways as you can.
People are divided on how they consume news and information. Many people still read print newspapers and books; other read the same content on websites. Others only frequent social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. More and more people are using their smartphones and tablets as their primary Internet-access device, and many government websites are not mobile friendly. You might save money on printing costs, but then pay big bucks for updating your website, and then be forced to pay staff to monitor, post, and reply to posts on social media outlets.
Sosnowski’s plan to stop printing public notices in newspapers is shortsighted. Newspapers provide a standard, portable format for sharing government information. If budgets allow, post the same information on websites and social media. Sharing public information on more, rather than fewer, media outlets is in the public interest and critical to encouraging the public to engage government.
Paul Gorski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.