By Joshua Wood
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
SARATOGA — Despite the advent of the internet and social media, Wyoming newspapers still serve as an important avenue for public notices — at least according to Governor Mark Gordon, who spoke at the 125th Annual Wyoming Press Convention in Casper on January 19.
Over the past several years, the Wyoming Legislature has seen a number of bills introduced which would remove public notices from the pages of Wyoming newspapers.
They were proposed despite the fact that 86% of Wyoming adults cite newspapers as their most trusted source for public notices as opposed to government websites and other sources, per a survey by Coda Ventures LLC.
Additionally, 68% of Wyoming adults believe state and local governments should be required to publish public notices in newspapers on a regular basis.
“Right now is probably as much a challenging time to get public notices out as ever,” said Gordon. “What platform are you going to use? Do people still read the paper the way they used to? The paper is a permanent repository that has value. For my money, that is something that we need to make sure we keep. I want to resist the temptation to try to somehow limit to one platform or one approach or one method of being able to get public notice out.”
As an example, Gordon cited the Bureau of Land Management’s purchase of the 35,670-acre Marton Ranch in 2023. The purchase of the private property was criticized by Gordon for not originally seeking public and local government comments in 2022.
“We should have been informed but they (BLM) said ‘It’s on this website and if you would have looked at it you would have seen it,’” said Gordon. “It was a pretty major land transaction that the BLM was going to pick up.”
According to the survey from Coda Ventures LLC, only 31% of Wyoming adults visit government websites as opposed to 63% who read local newspapers or visit local newspaper websites.
“Public notice is important, we need to make sure we use every avenue,” said Gordon. “I also think that permanent record, one that cannot be altered, is very important.”
Along with publishing in newspapers, public notices are also uploaded to wyopublicnotices.org.
During the 2023 general session, HB164, which would have required newspapers to upload public notices to their websites and the central statewide repository, failed on a vote of 31-31.
Rep. Donald Burkhart, Jr., R – Rawlins, voted aye while Rep. Bob Davis R – Baggs, voted nay.
Gordon also briefly touched on Generative AI, referencing his appearance on CNBC.
According to the governor, he had been asked by an anchor if the advent of AI meant there wasn’t a need to teach history.
“It was a serious question and obviously very poorly informed,” said Gordon. “That’s one of the concerns I think we have to have is making sure that we have that repository on a permanent basis.”