People crave public record

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By Becky Cassell, Editor

Well, the results are in. In March, we asked readers to weigh in on the subject of public records.

Do you read them? How interested are you in reading about them? Which of them are you more interested in?

From speeding tickets, misdemeanors and indictments to marriages, divorces and land transfers, the News-Journal publishes a multitude of public records. And in the past few years, we have had to devote additional space for the same information we have always published.

And that's why we asked for readers' opinions. We needed to know just how important public records are to our readers. We wanted to know what you want to read - as well as what you don't.

To that end, we published a survey on our Web site for several weeks in addition to a print version on March 17.

And you responded.

Of the total responses, 77.9 percent said they consider themselves a reader of the public record section; 21.3 percent said they do not read it. Less than 1 percent answered that they don't know.

In addition, 62.5 percent stated that they read public records "all the time," 20.9 responded that they read it "occasionally," 11.9 percent answered "rarely" and just 4.7 percent stated that they "never" read it.

We also asked how often you read the different types of public record. The majority of you responded that you read the following "all the time": traffic (72 percent), misdemeanors (72.5 percent), felonies (79.9 percent), new drivers (54.7 percent), marriages (75.1 percent), divorces (75.3 percent), land transfers (65.1 percent), small claims (67.1 percent), district civil (70.4 percent), circuit civil (70.6 percent), criminal court dockets (66.5 percent), restaurant inspections (66.7 percent) and indictments (81.7 percent).

Of those who responded to our survey, 33.3 percent were male, 66.7 percent were female, and 58 skipped the question.

On the survey, there was also a section for comments. And these were varied: 54 individuals left comments telling us we need to continue publishing all public records; 25 provided reasons why we shouldn't.

Some of the comments from those who believe public records should be published were:

"It's an important part of the newspaper" ... "fine the way they are, don't mess up a good thing" ... "should be printed because it's a safety issue for the community" ... "good to post people who break laws (they might think twice and do what's right)" ... "says a lot about a person" ... "only good part of the newspaper" ... "the only ones who don't want this published are the ones listed in the fines" ... "the community has a right to know what's going on in the courts."

Comments from those who think they shouldn't be published included:

"Don't see the purpose" ... "shouldn't always be made public" ... "humiliating to some people" ... "harms innocent families and loved ones of those in trouble with the law" ... "affects reputation of people in our community" ... "court records are no one's business" ... "I am an advocate for privacy" ... "publish as a statistical summary."

So, we promised you that the results wouldn't sit on a shelf collecting dust. We said we would take them and make the changes you asked for.

In other words, public records appear to be a passionate topic among all readers - with almost a 3:1 ration in favor of publishing them.

And now that we have the results, we see what is important to the majority of you. Public records are an important part of the newspaper, and most don't think we should change it.

It all comes down to one thing ...

We want to continue to provide a professional, high-quality local community newspaper that is committed to covering the events and issues that are important to you.