Public notice database adds transparency

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One of the foundational jobs of newspapers is to constantly inform and update its readers on what's going on in their communities.

Newspapers should be a reliable source where a reader can turn to see how public money has been spent, plans for it to be spent and who's spending it. People should also be able to easily know when local government officials are meeting and what's being discussed. Public records are vitally important to a community because they do just that – they notify the public of important issues and decisions that could affect readers' lives.

News sources are able to do this through public notices. Typically, public notices are included inside newspapers and on websites. The public notice portions are highly viewed sections in the paper when the issue is released but can otherwise be difficult to find without digging through archives or lost after the next issue is published.

In steps the Nebraska Press Association (NPA). The NPA recently launched a website, nepublicnotices.com, that compiles all public notices throughout the state into one easily searchable database. Currently, the website contains more than 90,000 notices.

A visitor to the website can search a public notice by date, publication, county, city or village. Notices will be uploaded to the website by the newspaper within 24 to 48 hours of publication. A bonus of the new system is it comes as no cost to the entity or court who authored the notice, the publication submitting the notice or the people searching for notices.

So why was this necessary and why is it important?

“Through public notices, units of government at all levels notify taxpayers when, where and how they conduct the public’s business. Nebraskans get their local news and information from printed newspapers and digital platforms and this new statewide public notice website enables a larger audience to have access to this important information,” NPA president Amy Johnson said in a release issued by the NPA.

The efforts made by the NPA and its membership newspapers show the seriousness and importance of public notices to the people who live in Nebraska communities. Because of this website, everyone with an internet enabled device has access to public notices. It's another tool for newspapers and the public in the ever-evolving need for transparency from leaders and government officials.

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