Monday, January 02, 2017

Treating public notices as news, not just ads, increases readership and knowledge

The News-Graphic's public-notice page (for a
large version click on it, or here for the original)
At a time when local governments are asking state legislatures to eliminate or reduce the requirements for publishing paid public notices in newspapers, perhaps it's time for the papers to start treating the notices as the news that they are, not just advertising.

That's what Kentucky's thrice-weekly Georgetown News-Graphic is doing, making the "legal ads" look like news stories "designed to capture readers’ attention and promote the kind of serendipity that distinguishes newsprint from electronic formats," reports the Public Notice Resource Center, the national advocate for state public-notice laws.

News-Graphic Publisher Mike Scogin got the idea from newspaper design consultant Ed Henninger. “The news value of public notice is overlooked,” Scogin told PNRC. “I thought that redesigning our public-notice section was a good way to promote that. I also wanted to show the local government units that run the notices that we’re acting in their best interest.” Kentucky law requires the notices to run in 7-point type, so Scogin charges for them as if they were. “I’m happy to give up the extra space to provide our readers with information they need,” he said.

"He says local government officials have generally acknowledged the new look, but its biggest proponents have been his readers. He hears regularly from subscribers who hail the increased accessibility of the notices," PNRC reports. "Not everyone has been happy about it though. The owner of a liquor store who placed a notice in the News-Graphic to qualify for a liquor license was irate because its increased visibility prevented him from keeping his plans hidden from his local competitor."

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