Five things about public notices in the newspaper

October is Public Notices Month in South Dakota. It’s an opportunity to shine a light on why public notices published in your local newspaper matter in our lives and in our society.  

Here are five things to know:  

1) Public notices published in your local newspaper are a record of the official actions of government. There are many types of public notices: bid notices, election notices, proposed zoning regulations, proposed budgets and much more. Perhaps the most common and the best read public notices are the minutes of local government meetings. The boards, councils and commissions of all public school districts, cities, towns and counties in South Dakota are required by law to publish the minutes of all their public meetings.  

2) Public notices published in your local newspaper are indeed read by citizens. South Dakota Newspaper Association has commissioned a half dozen statewide public notice readership surveys over the past 20 years, and consistently those surveys have shown people read public notices. In fact, about half of all those surveyed say they read public notices in their local newspaper at least sometimes or regularly.

Opponents of public notices published in the local newspaper argue that newspapers are dying and that no one reads them anymore. They argue that local governments should put their public notices online instead of having to pay to publish them in the local newspaper. SDNA’s statewide surveys show that taxpayers overwhelmingly prefer to have the notices published in their newspaper instead of having them available only online. Plus, the cost to publish public notices in the local newspaper is small. In fact, it averages less than one-half of one percent of a local government body’s annual budget.

Newspapers are not dying. Newspapers continue as the No. 1 source for local news and information in communities all across our state. South Dakotans rely on the local newspaper to keep them informed about their community and help keep their community connected.  

3) The 128 newspapers in South Dakota have cooperated to create a searchable online site for public notices. The website – – is a compilation of public notices that were first printed in the local newspaper. This service is provided free of charge. Local governments are not charged a fee and the public is not charged a fee to use the site.

4) Public notices published in the local newspaper provide permanency and a bonafide authentication that the internet cannot match. Public notices on the internet can be manipulated, altered and subjected to cyber attacks. Public notices published by the newspaper don’t have those same vulnerabilities. Time and again public notices published in the local newspaper are used by those in the legal community and in government as legal records and research documents. Newspapers provide an independent, third-party check in the process of delivering public notices to the public. That is better than having government as the sole author and publisher of its own information.

5) Public notices published in the local newspaper are an essential building block for good, open government. Democracy works best when citizens are well informed and have the information they need to help them shape their decision-making. Public notices fulfill that essential role. Transparency and openness in government are vital and go hand-in -hand with public notices published in the local newspaper.

During this Public Notices Month, I encourage you to visit with your local newspaper staff to learn more about the public notices published in the newspaper. Plus, I encourage you to urge your local legislators to resist the ongoing efforts in Pierre to eliminate the publication of public notices in your newspaper. Good government depends on it. 

David Bordewyk is a part of the South Dakota Newspaper Association and can be reached at [email protected]