Public notice resources


Public notices in newspapers are part of the three-legged stool of government accountability. Public notices help to inform the public on activities by the government and other public entities. Public notices have been included in newspapers from the beginning of the Republic. Now they are also on many newspapers’ websites.

A valid public notice should have four key elements:

  • It should be published in a medium independent of the government or other entity compelled to provide notice.
  • It should be verifiable so that citizens can satisfy themselves that notice was properly given. An affidavit from the newspaper attesting to the type and date of publication is the typical verification, and these are often used in litigation to demonstrate that due process requirements were met.
  • It should be archivable so that future generations can retrieve it.
  • It should be accessible to a broad range of people. Surveys demonstrate that a wide majority of citizens believe public notices should be in newspapers.

The public notices in most newspapers appear in the classified section. In some states, that is because state law considers them classified ads. In others, it's simply tradition — they've been there for all of our lives. Lewis and Clark used public notices. Most state constitutions were drawn up with the help of public notices.