- Special Sections
- Public Notices
What it really comes down to is osmosis. You remember osmosis, don't you? In high school science, you learned that's the process that lets stuff pass through the membrane that surrounds your cells. Osmosis lets the good stuff in and the bad stuff out, trading spent fuel for new fuel. It keeps you alive.
The funny thing about osmosis (other than the name) is that it's automatic. There's no conscious thought involved. That's why if you get stranded at sea, like Tom Hanks in Castaway, you mustn't drink seawater, even if you're dying of thirst.
In fact, if you drink seawater, osmosis is what will kill you. It will move the fresh water out of your cells and take salt water in until you're basically a pickle. You can't stop it, anymore than you can consciously make your nose stop running.
You don't have a choice.
Switch gears from water to information, from your cells to your mind.
There is an enormous amount of information out there, every day, trying hard to get into your head. Advertising. Celebrity fluff. Sports statistics. Dates. Disclaimers. Passwords. Information you will never need competes with information you vitally need - all jockeying for space with that long poem you had to learn in junior high.
But unlike osmosis, when it comes to information, you have a choice. You control what goes into your head. That's what makes newspapers so irreplaceable, and public notices such a vital part of this free society.
In America, we take the free flow of information for granted. We count on being able to pick up the newspaper, turn on the radio, browse the Internet, flip on the TV and check out the smorgasbord of data to see what we need and what we don't. We are our own filter. The fact that all this information is out there is the foundation of this country and absolutely essential to the freedoms we enjoy.
The newspaper is the ultimate buffet table of information.
It's not that way everywhere. In many countries, dictators take over the media and strive mightily to control the flow of information to the people they wish to keep in subjection. And as we've seen throughout history, once information begins to flow freely in a culture, it's difficult to keep people under the thumb of repression.
We see that repressive spirit here, too, in the school superintendent who doesn't want board members to talk to teachers, the city council that wants to stifle comments at meetings, judges who issue unneeded gag orders, commissioners who want to work it all out behind the scenes and have every vote unanimous. There are officials at every level of government who resist the free flow of information. They think they know better.
They don't get it. Newspapers fight this battle every day, at every level, because the free flow of information is ultimately what guarantees our freedom.
Much is said about posting public notices on the Internet. They should. In fact, most newspapers already put them there. But the idea of removing them from newspapers ought to send chills down the spine of every freedom-loving American. That's like taking a main course off the buffet table and serving it only in the back room, for the privileged few who know the password.
Public notices should be out there for everyone to browse, notice and read. It should be available to all. Anything that takes away control from the people - anything that pulls an item off the smorgasbord of information - is something we should resist.
It's a step toward osmosis, toward not having control.
And as we learned in science class, that will kill you.