Hoosiers support the right to know what government at all levels is up to, and they believe public notices in community newspapers are a trusted source of that transparency.
A 2014 survey by the Princeton, New Jersey-based American Opinion Research asked state residents their thoughts on the importance of public notice advertisements in local newspapers. The study was commissioned by the Hoosier State Press Association’s board of directors and surveyed 1,000 Indiana residents. The findings, published in the Nov. 13, 2014 edition of The Indiana Publisher, were overwhelming:
• 85% supported publication of public notices as a way to inform residents of government actions.
• 64% said governmental entities should be required to publish these announcements, even though they cost them thousands of extra dollars per year.
• 61% said they had read or seen public notice advertising in a newspaper.
State legislators placed a “sunset” in 2013 to the requirement that local government agencies publish their budgets as part of the notice of budget hearings. The rollback took effect in 2014.
The change in the budget-publishing requirement was sought by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance. Removing budget details from newspaper public notices reduced resident access to this important information. The Hoosier State Press Association says just 12,000 unique visitors saw local government budgets on the DLGF website in 2017, compared to the 3 million Hoosier newspaper readers who no longer read budget details in their local newspapers.
The American Opinion Research shows Hoosiers agree on the importance of public notice advertisements. It’s pretty difficult to keep tabs on governmental entities if one can’t even find basic information like the annual budgets they will debate.
In the 2021 legislative session, state lawmakers must make annual budgets a part of the notice of budget hearings again.
Such a requirement puts information in the one place where local residents are likely to find it: the community newspaper.