Newspapers seeking a court order to run legal advertising must show the court that they are a newspaper published for the dissemination of local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character. However, exactly what this means has been the subject of several cases.
This requirement comes from either of the two statutes in California to become a newspaper of general circulation. Under Government Code § 6008(a)(1), adjudication as a newspaper of general circulation requires a “newspaper published for the dissemination of local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character… in the city, district, or public notice district for which it is seeking adjudication.” Under Government Code § 6000, a “‘newspaper of general circulation’ is a newspaper published for the dissemination of local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character….”
The law sets a relatively low standard is on this element. Notably, “a newspaper is of general circulation where, in addition to the stereotyped material, it carries news accounts of court and other official proceedings, including activities of the California congressional delegation, reviews of court decisions, general advertisements, personal notices, and other items of diversified character.” 46 Cal. Jur. 3d Newspapers and Press Associations § 11 (citing In re Green (1913) 21 Cal.App. 138).
Thereafter, the California Supreme Court found that this requirement would be met where, “in addition to certain stereotyped matter, [the newspaper] contains news accounts of court and other official proceedings, including the activity of the California members of Congress, reviews of court decisions, general advertisements, personal notices and many items of local current events of a diversified character.” Application of Herman (1920) 183 Cal. 153, 163–64.
Given the First Amendment, Courts have been reluctant to question the quality of content when determining the status of a newspaper as one of general. For example, one contestant argued “that there are no editorials in the paper,” to which the court responded that “this does not mean that a paper may not be a newspaper of general circulation. There is no language in the statute requiring a newspaper to publish editorials. A newspaper may still disseminate local news and intelligence of a general character without having an editorial column. Editorials are only a part of what may be published along with other news items.” In re Paradise News Press (1957) 151 Cal.App. 2d 496, 498–99.
If you are litigating this issue, it is important to have a skilled newspaper lawyer in California to ensure that the court reaches the correct decision.