Elkton Town Meeting, March 2, 2011 –Questions about the most effective public outlets for advertising and keeping citizens informed about municipal matters have been floating around local board recently. Most recently, the Elkton mulled over whether print ads providing trash collection information had been effective. “We need to be committed to communicating whatever we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it to let residents know,” Commissioner Givens remarked. “Newspapers are shrinking. It’s just society anymore,” he added as officials discussed additional outreach options such as a newsletter or water-bills. “The website is one thing, but not everyone has the Internet.”
While others considered the challenges and opportunities, Commissioner Jablonski recommended, the Cecil Guardian, a weekly newspaper, which she says has wide readership. “On the advertising, I don’t know if you checked into the Cecil Guardian yet, because it’s much cheaper. Everyone is reading it now.”
A similar exchange occured at a county commissioners meeting in February after the county attorney, Norman Wilson, wrote an opinion saying that the Guardian qualified as a paper of general circulation under the Maryland Code of Regulations. If a paper meets those minimum standards, the publication is qualified to publish 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. One major requirement is that the product must have paid circulation.
Since the Cecil Guardian asked the commissioners to designate it as a newspaper of general circulation, 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.
Commissioners Hodge, Moore, and Mullin were receptive to the idea of considering the Guardian for legal advertisements, but Commissioners Broomell and Dunn were not convinced. 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 wrote.