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Newspapers still vital to our communities

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By The Staff

It’s National Newspaper Week, and it is a good time to put things in perspective.

In a head-to-head test of public notice results, a newspaper recently won by a 7-to-1 margin over the Internet.

People still read newspapers and are far more likely to see newspaper notices than those placed online.

The test was done in Darlington County in July by Sheriff Wayne Byrd and his local paper.

During a one-month period, 200 names of those with outstanding warrants were placed on the sheriff’s website, and 200 were placed in the Darlington newspaper, the News & Press.

Results from the newspaper listings were amazing.

After the newspaper began running the lists, the sheriff got more than a thousand calls about clearing up outstanding warrants.  

Byrd said his department had “an awful lot of people scrambling to get these things cleared up…Once you start printing names in the paper, that’s when people start paying attention.”

Of those names printed in the newspaper, 70 citizens came forward to deal with their unserved warrants – a response rate of 35 percent.

Of those whose names were listed on the website, only 10 came forward – a 5 percent response rate.

As legislators debate proposals to move public notices from newspapers to government websites, they should take these figures to heart.

Moving public notices to the Internet would mean the end of public notices in South Carolina.

Even if citizens had Internet access, and many don’t, they won’t go to their computers and look up public notices. The Darlington test makes this clear.

Public notice readership mirrors overall readership of newspapers.

Newspapers are part of the fabric that makes up communities across South Carolina.  

From covering high school sports to weddings and obituaries, from police coverage to stories on government, from grocery ads to want ads – newspapers are there looking out for their readers.

Like all businesses in these tough economic times, newspapers have had to deal with cost-cutting measures. But they still remain the only true mass media in almost every market in South Carolina.

Support your local paper – with your readership and your advertising dollars.