By Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director
As most of you know, major revisions happened to Ohio’s laws involving public notices in 2011, and we still get a lot of member questions. This is a subject that never goes away, and that makes sense.
First of all, there is a reason why the word “public” is in public notices.
It is important for notices to be in places where people will see them and read them. They shouldn’t be the exclusive property of government, whether in print or online. Times are changing, but all the research in Ohio and around the country still shows consistently that the public wants and expects notices in newspapers as their first, preferred option. Notices certainly should not live exclusively on government websites.
Secondly, there is no shame at all in noting that revenue from these notices is important to the great majority of our newspapers. It is reasonable and proper to be fairly compensated for advertising requirements that are placed in statutes for sound, public-policy purposes.
Shortly after the law changed, we produced an FAQ (frequently asked questions) document that included the actual language in the specific statutes. This has helped a lot of ONA members address both problems and opportunities. Over the past two years, we only have made a few, modest changes.
Today we are announcing the first major revisions to the FAQ. The law hasn’t changed, but we felt that we could do a better job of answering the most common questions we get from members, organizing the material and clarifying a few areas to reflect recent developments.
The biggest changes are in the areas of ad rates and qualifications to publish notices. Most of our questions are in these two areas by far. The rate information now is much more extensive, and the qualification answer points out some areas that are being litigated.
A major thank-you goes to ONA General Counsel Lou Colombo for going through my draft line-by-line and improving several sections. Lou is more than a leading expert on Ohio’s public notice laws. He’s a fine copy editor.
Lou and I also will lead an ONA workshop in Columbus on Oct. 2 on the public-notice laws. Cost only is $15 for ONA members and includes lunch. Click here for more information and to register.
Related to this, we just completed a major revision to our downloadable and searchable guide to all of Ohio’s public notice requirements. You also will find that in the “members only” area of www.ohionews.org. Some of our local ad managers have used this to discover notice requirements that were not being followed.