- The purpose of public notices is to make citizens aware of governmental actions and intent. That’s why the Texas Constitution and numerous Texas statutes require them. There’s no more effective way to notify large numbers of people than with newspapers, which publish the notices both in print AND online.
- Newspapers’ readership far exceeds that of any other medium. The number of print readers, combined with our online readers, makes total newspaper penetration most attractive to anyone who must reach a mass audience.
- Regardless of the market size, newspaper online traffic is consistently much higher than readership of governmental websites. While newspapers – in print and online – are seen as a “go-to” independent source for reliable and consistent local information, local governmental websites have a very small sliver of readership.
- Newspaper readers are most likely to be involved in local civic activities — and to vote.
- Texas newspapers not only publish public notices on print and on their websites, but they combine all their notices into a free, searchable statewide website for the convenience of citizens and vendors who have interests in other areas of the state.
- Texas law requires that newspapers print public notices at their lowest published classified rate, so the taxpayer is getting a bargain. The fees are used to help defray the hard costs of paper, ink, delivery and the personnel cost of producing the pages.
- Many governmental entities already post their notices online, in addition to publishing them in the newspaper. There’s certainly nothing wrong with doing that. But if the notices were only available on those government sites, they would be seen only by citizens who actively seek them out — and could be found only by those who (a.) have online access, (b.) are aware of each of the myriad of governmental entities whose sites they should scour for notices (the greater Houston area alone has 496 entities), and (c.) have the expertise to locate notices that may be buried may clicks deep within a governmental website. A newspaper notice published only in the area affected, however, can and often is “discovered” by a reader who is simply reading the paper with his morning coffee.
- “Discovering” a governmental notice may be how a citizen first hears of governmental plans that have an important impact on him — actions such as annexations, zoning changes, school attendance zone revisions, tax increases, bond issues, large governmental purchases, or planned projects with environmental impacts such as landfills, etc.
- The elderly, the poor, minorities and rural residents are statistically less likely to have internet access than other groups. Eliminating print notice would effectively disenfranchise these citizens from civic involvement.
- The independent third-party approach to publishing and archiving public notices is an important element of government transparency and accountability. If governmental entities are allowed to “publish” and archive their notices on complex governmental websites that are designed, maintained and operated by governmental officials, citizens could lose much more than the relatively few dollars involved in the cost of newspaper public notices.
- Income from published legal notices generally runs about 1 to 5 percent of total revenue at a Texas newspaper. If that revenue should disappear, newspapers will be hurt, but they will survive. Governmental transparency and accountability to taxpayers, however, will be terribly diminished.
- All the above are reasons that the following groups want to preserve and protect printed public notice:
*Americans for Prosperity Texas
*ACLU of Texas
*Associated General Contractors
*Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas
*League of Women Voters of Texas
*Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
*Student Press Law Center
*Texas Campaign for the Environment
*Texas Press Association
*Texas Society of Architects