Public notices and transparent government

Public notices and transparent government

October 14th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

No one should begrudge legitimate efforts to reduce government expenses, but those efforts should not come at the cost of government transparency.

That is why we remain opposed to legislative efforts in Tennessee to remove important public notices from newspapers and place them on little-read websites.

It is undoubtedly true that more and more Tennesseans are connected to the Internet these days. But newspapers provide a vital service as a one-stop "clearinghouse" of sorts for public notices on everything from government meetings to zoning issues.

It is also true that publishing the notices costs government bodies money, and some will argue that revenue is the newspapers' real reason for wanting to continue printing public notices.

But the Times Free Press and other newspapers around the state have regularly stood up for transparency and openness in government -- even when the papers stood to gain no financial benefit. Seeking to continue the publication of notices about official government actions is only one more example of newspapers upholding the principle of open government.

The simple fact is, if public notices are consigned to obscure government websites -- and removed from Tennessee's newspapers -- they will be seen by fewer people, and government transparency will suffer as a result.

There are many worthy, commendable ways for government to reduce its costs, but anything that would reduce public awareness of the actions of government is not one of them.