Legal/Public Notice Advertising may be almost as old as KPA

We have a tradition to uphold!

Once known as “legal” advertising and a term the Newspaper Association Managers has pushed since the late 1980s to change to “Public Notice Advertising” has a much longer history than many of us may have thought.

I’ve read Perry Ashley’s ‘Early History of KPA’ a few times over the years but I must have forgotten the part about Legal Advertising. Re-scanning it today for the information I use in the ‘A Sesquicentennial of their own’ blurb, I found reference to Legal Advertising in the early history.

At KPA’s second meeting, in 1870, a resolution was proposed to encourage the legislature to pass a bill in favor of legal advertising. Action of that resolution was postponed but three years later it came up again and this time was approved by the KPA delegates. The resolution encouraged the legislature to enact a law “authorizing and directing the advertisement, in some newspaper published in the county of jurisdiction, of land sales made by sheriffs, courts, executors, and administrators.”

It must not have gotten far, that resolution in 1873 or 1874, because in 1877 KPA named a committee that would ask the legislature for “the passage of a legal advertising bill.”

Unfortunately, newspaper records don’t show the success of that effort, or when it might have finally been enacted by the legislature but seems with the persistence of the organization, the General Assembly might have given in. Up until the passage of a Legal Advertising bill, it appears only some kind of written notice of a pending sale was required. Perhaps it was placed at the courthouse door or signs placed around town or maybe one copy at the main office of the local public library (ok, that’s my own thought because of the wording the legislature put on school district financial statements back in 2002).

All press associations have an exhaustive list of reasons why government agencies notices should not be put on an agency’s website and other arguments pertaining to preserving public notices in newspapers. Perhaps the opening paragraph of KPA’s 1877 resolution should be adopted as one.

It reads: “Whereas, experience has shown that the interest of both the debtor and creditor classes suffer from the present insufficient and unsatisfactory system of legal sales by posting mere written notices of the same, except as provided by certain special laws applicable to only a few localities.”

Yeah, I think we’ll begin our next testimony before a legislative committee on moving public notices with that statement. They’ll be scratching their heads as to just what was said?

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