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OPINION: Notices in newspapers bolster transparency in government

David Bordewyk  By David Bordewyk

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South Dakota Newspaper Association

Earlier this month, Gov. Dennis Daugaard used his weekly column to share information with citizens about moving state government toward more transparency and accessibility.

Specifically, he wrote about the launch of a new state government website that makes it easier for the public to learn about administrative rules and regulations that are proposed and implemented by various state agencies. The new website is

Congratulations to the governor for creating a practical and useful website that will well serve the citizens of South Dakotans. And thank you to Gov. Daugaard for bringing more attention to the need for transparency in government.

“I strongly believe that the workings of government should be as transparent as possible,” the governor wrote in his column. “As South Dakota citizens, you deserve the opportunity to know about and participate in your government.”

Hear, hear. I couldn’t agree more. That’s a message newspapers have been promoting for decades and it’s gratifying to see more and more embrace the ideals of transparency and open government.

Last month the 130 member newspapers of South Dakota Newspaper Association observed the first-ever Public Notices Month in South Dakota. It was an opportunity to bring attention to public notices such as school board minutes and delinquent property tax lists published in the local newspaper and to the role those notices play in our democracy.

Just like the point made by the governor in his column, public notices in the local newspaper create the opportunity for us as citizens and taxpayers to know about and participate in our government.

A key point to remember is that public notices published in the local newspaper provide an independent, third-party, authentification step in the process of delivering the public notices to the public. That third party is the newspaper.

The newspaper, as publisher of government public notices, provides an independent verification and delivery of government information. It is more powerful and more effective than government itself being the sole author, editor and distributor of information that we as taxpayers need to know.

And it’s permanent. Public notices published in the local newspaper create a bonafide record that cannot be hacked, manipulated or deleted. It’s ink on paper. In fact, an official notarized copy of every public notice published in newspapers is prepared as a legal document of that printed record of government action.

Newspapers in South Dakota recognize the role of the Internet for searching and accessing information. That is why the 130 newspapers in our state have cooperated to provide, a searchable website that aggregates all of the public notices first published in the local newspaper. Newspapers provide that website at no charge to government or citizens.

But it all begins with the publication of a government notice in your local newspaper. We tagged our Public Notices Month observance with a “VIP” theme. Verifiable, independent and permanent. Or, valuable, important and public. Either way, these are all adjectives that describe the significance of public notices published in your local newspaper.

As the governor wrote in his column, “Even when information is open, however, it isn’t very useful when it cannot be easily accessed. Putting information online, in one location, with appropriate explanation, allows the public to participate in government at a higher level.”

I like to think that publishing public notices in the local newspaper that is complete with other local, relevant news and information and that is delivered to your doorstep or mailbox can take that public participation to an even higher level yet.

It makes you — the citizen — a VIP.

-David Bordewyk is general manager of South Dakota Newspaper Association, which is based in Brookings and represents the state’s 130 weekly and daily newspapers with a total readership of more than 600,000.