Newspapers, press association launch statewide online public notice database


Newspapers across the state, including The Sumter Item, have launched a website where people can search for public notices published throughout South Carolina.

The creation of is a way to notify the public of government and court actions through the combination of the permanency of print paired with the accessibility of a statewide searchable site.

Legal advertisements, or public notices, inform citizens of the everyday activities of government and the courts, and they provide transparency and accessibility to those who want to know more about government actions, according to a news release from the South Carolina Press Association. They allow the public to influence governing bodies and to be an active participant in a democratic society.

The site, which launched in August, is a central repository of virtually all public notice/legal ads that run in printed newspapers in South Carolina. Ads are searchable by keyword, type of notice, date and location.

So far, more than 16,000 public notices have been posted to the site. They will remain online indefinitely.

"We're grateful to the members for their support and participation in this virtual project that will help increase the public's right to know," said Bill Rogers, SCPA executive director. "Newspapers are the best vehicles for public notices because of their reach and ability to offer publication in an independent entity that cannot be altered, removed or changed. This site is a valuable add-on where ads are uploaded to a single, searchable site that's updated daily.

To be effective, public notices must be published by an independent third party, such as a local newspaper; be archivable in a secure and publicly available format like print newspapers; be conveniently accessible by all segments of society; and be verified with an affidavit of publication.

In South Carolina, legislators have long recognized the importance of maintaining an accountable and transparent government by requiring the publication of public notices in newspapers, according to the website. This new site and the partnership between the state press association and the state's newspapers, has expanded and enhanced access to these public notices.

The service is provided by South Carolina newspapers at no cost to taxpayers but is accessible to all. Nearly 80 percent of newspapers statewide that publish these types of ads are on the site already. By early 2019, SCPA expects 100 percent participation.

Most statewide press associations offer similar public notice sites. SCPA worked with the Illinois Press Association to create the Palmetto State's site.