Legal notices key to official transparency

The first legal notice to be published in Douglas County in a newspaper of general circulation after statehood is a sheriff’s sale of property belonging to Casey Forest appearing in the first few editions of the Carson Valley News, which began publication in Genoa on Feb. 20, 1875.

There was also a notice placed by the administrator of the estate of Anthony Trapp on the third page.

We don’t know either gentleman, but we know Mr. Forest’s property was east of Main Street in Genoa and who his neighbors were.

Founded in 1875 by soon to be elected District Attorney A.C. Pratt, the News and its progeny, including The Record-Courier, continue to publish notices of tax sales, meetings, public bids, name changes and a variety of other items designed to alert the public to actions conducted by the government.

The Nevada Association of Counties is sponsoring Senate Bill 22, which would allow for the publication of notices on a newspaper web site instead of in the newspaper, because newspapers are reducing periodicity or closing in rural Nevada.

We certainly appreciate the income from public notices, but they don’t exist to support newspapers any more than public transportation’s purpose is to employ bus drivers.

That 1875 public notice served to inform residents that the government was going to sell someone’s private property, which is a really big deal, not only for both the owner and heirs, but to other property owners.

The reason we can read about the sale of Casey Forest’s property some 148 years later is that record has been preserved independently of the state.

If notices are such a public service, then why don’t newspapers publish them for free? You might as well ask why grocery stores charge for food, or gas stations for fuel. People with a message pay for space in the newspaper in order to communicate with our readers. That’s how we keep the lights on.

There’s a reason why people refer to legislation as making sausage. What goes in, very rarely resembles what comes out. It wouldn’t require much of a tweak to allow the government to publish notices on their own websites, which we argue undermines notices’ purpose altogether.

We’re taxpayers, too, and that’s where we and you should have a real issue.


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