Cecil County Commissioners Workshop, February 15, 2011 — A question about whether a local weekly newspaper qualifies as “a newspaper of general circulation” was considered by the county commissioners at the workshop. It’s an important issue as paid circulation publications meeting Maryland requirements are qualified to publish county legal notices, a significant source of revenue for print enterprises.
Maryland’s standards are fairly basic. Papers must contain news, editorials, and advertisements, be distributed at least once a week, have general circulation throughout the county, and be entitled to be entered as second class mail. The paper shall also contain at least four pages and have paid circulation.
Since the Cecil Guardian asked the commissioners to designate it as a newspaper of general circulation here, the elected officials turned to county attorney, Norman Wilson, for a legal determination. “It is my opinion that the Cecil Guardian does fulfill all the requirements of the statute, therefore, is and should be considered a newspaper of general circulation and can be used by the county for legal advertisements,” he wrote on February 15, 2011.
When the attorney first examined this question in July 2010 for the board, he wrote that the weekly complied with all the sections, but wanted to wait six months “to err on the side of caution.” Paid circulation was his area of concern at that time, so he suggested the board “wait until the Guardian had been for sale at a per copy price for more than six months to ensure” it fulfilled all the requirements. “I have examined local newspapers in Cecil County, and I believe that we are free to advertise in the Cecil Whig, Baltimore Sun, and The New Journal, which are for sale newspapers. The Herald may not have sufficient circulation in the lower part of the county,” he continued.
The Guardian reported this week that Commissioners Hodge, Moore, and Mullin were receptive to the idea, but Commissioners Broomell and Dunn were not convinced. Commissioner Dunn remarked that he would like to see public notices just placed on line, the weekly reported.
The Guardian applauded Commissioners Hodge, Moore and Mullin “for readily embracing the money-saving possibilities that this new competition will offer to the taxpayers,” in an editorial. “In tough economic times, competition is a great thing for the county’s budget,” the paper noted.