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Editorial: Government's never been more open

The ad states "Wisconsin government has never been more open" and it's from the newspapers of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA).

Before you take us to task on that statement, go online and visit -- our comprehensive, searchable, statewide public notice website. The site was launched by WNA to enhance government's longstanding practice of distributing public information via newspapers.

Search content on the site by city, county, newspaper, zip code and key word. Select your hometown newspaper, type in "minutes" and choose "all words" in the search type menu. Try "foreclosure" or "bid."

Wisconsin's government is keeping you informed and government business is indeed yours. is a free resource available to all, offering a direct link to public notices first published by newspapers from around our state. The Wisconsin Legislature has long understood the value of an informed citizenry and has always mandated public notices be published in ink, on paper, in the newspapers across the state.

This permanent, third-party documentation--unalterable and independent of government itself--ensures protection for each and every person. The public must be given opportunity to be made aware of government actions affecting them, whether it is the activity of all government or the actions of courts. It's "The Public's Right to Know." takes each newspaper's partnership with government a step further by enhancing government's reach to today's online readers. The site brings those ink-on-paper notices together in one online home to assist citizens who want to know more about the actions of local, county and state government, as well as events occurring in the local and state court system. Notices are first published in newspapers and then placed on the site to offer enhancements such as statewide search and round-the-clock updates to online readers.

Studies tell us today's citizens are reading newspapers in print and they are reading newspapers online--our own 2009 survey told us 83 percent of Wisconsin adults read a local newspaper and a national analysis conducted by comScore in October of 2010 reported newspaper companies attract nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of all adult internet users.

Our industry is serving its readers by making news available in both print and online mediums--it's critical government public notices are available to be read online, too. There is no cost to the public for accessing notices on the website and there is no added cost to units of government for placing the notices on the site. brings the notices published by WNA's 30 daily and 195 weekly newspapers together on one site, saving citizens the task of searching many sites for one notice. It's digital democracy.

--This editorial was written by Andrew Johnson, publisher of the Dodge County Pioneer and president of the WNA Board of Directors.