As Oklahoma legislators prepare once again to meet in open session, it seems an appropriate time to renew a fundamental reality involving the public’s right to know. It is this: Public notices printed in newspapers and published on newspaper websites are vital to maintaining transparency.
Occasionally, the notion arises that the printed word can be left out of the mix; that government website postings will suffice to fulfill the requirement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Approximately 27 percent of our area’s rural residents do not even have the possibility of achieving Internet access at this time.
But even if they could, it is their local newspaper they depend on to fill them in on local happenings. Their local newspaper comes to them on a daily basis, which is to say they don’t have to be reminded to initiate the process of learning what their government is up to regarding new taxation, notices of public hearings, publication of local budgets, government-business contracts, court notices, notices to creditors, foreclosures or claims on probated estates, any one of which they may want to assert a claim or object to outright.
Besides, your local newspaper, as well as Oklahoma Press Association, already fills whatever the need may be for public notices to be posted online.
As Oklahoma Press Association points out, local newspapers are “an effective instrument because they have become the traditional source of public notices. Newspapers function as a neutral third party and are objective in their publishing of legal notices.”
Put simply, printed notification distributed to the community remains the best way to get this information disseminated. Anything else jeopardizes transparency and diminishes the public’s right to know.
—The Ada News