California Landmark Cases on Newspaper Publication

"The Government Code provides that whenever any official advertising, notice, resolution, order, or other matter is required by law to be published in a newspaper, such publication shall be made only in a 'newspaper of general circulation' ( 6040), and that term is defined in section 6000 as a newspaper for the dissemination of news and intelligence of a general character which has a bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers and has been 'established, printed and published' at regular intervals for at least one year preceding publication in the state, county, or city where the publication is to be made. The word 'established' is defined as referring to a newspaper which has been in existence under a specified name for the whole of the one-year period. ( 6002.) Until 1923 a newspaper could qualify as 'printed and published' within the meaning of the predecessor of section 6000 even though the physical act of printing was not performed in the place where the paper was to appear , but in that year the Legislature adopted provisions, still in effect, defining 'printed' and 'published' in such manner that a newspaper could not be deemed one of general circulation for an area unless 50 percent of the mechanical work of typesetting and impressing type on paper was completed there. ( 6003, 6004.)" (In re Norwalk Call (1964) 62 Cal.2d 185, 186-187.) "Also in 1923, however, the Legislature enacted the provision involved in this proceeding ( 6006), declaring, 'Nothing in this chapter alters the standing of any newspaper which, prior to the passage of Chapter 258 of the Statutes of 1923, was an established newspaper of general circulation, irrespective of whether it was printed in the place where it was published for a period of one year as required.'" (In re Norwalk Call, supra, 62 Cal.2d at p. 187.) Therefore, if "a newspaper met all the requirements to qualify as an established newspaper of general circulation before 1923 and has continued to meet all the standards in force at that time," then it may rely on the exception in section 6006 concerning printing location. (Norwalk Call, at p. 189.) Prior to 1923, the law provided: "'A newspaper of general circulation is a newspaper published for the dissemination of local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character, having a bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers, and which shall have been established, printed and published at regular intervals, in the state, county, city, city and county, or town, where such publication, notice by publication, or official advertising is given or made, for at least one year preceding the date of such publication, notice or advertisement.'" (In re McDonald (1921) 187 Cal. 158, 159 201 P. 110, italics omitted (McDonald).) In 1921, the Supreme Court considered whether a newspaper, the Ontario Weekly Herald was a newspaper of general circulation for Ontario, when the offices for the newspaper were in Ontario, Ontario was the newspaper's principal place of circulation, and a city license to conduct the newspaper's business was paid to the City of Ontario, but the newspaper was physically printed in Colton. The Supreme Court framed the issue as "whether the fact that the physical printing of the paper is done in one town, and the publication and circulation in another, prevents it from being a newspaper of general circulation within the meaning of the statute." (McDonald, supra, 187 Cal. at p. 159.) The Supreme Court explained that the purpose of the law is to define the term newspaper in a manner that would allow important notices to reach the community affected by the information in the notices. (McDonald, supra, 187 Cal. at pp. 159-160.) The court explained that since the newspaper's offices were in Ontario and its taxes were paid in Ontario, the newspaper was "caused to be printed in Ontario," published in Ontario, and circulated in Ontario. The court reasoned that production of the newspaper was done in Ontario, "save the setting up of the type and making the impressions on the paper." (Id. at p. 161.) The court determined that limiting the definition of "printed" to setting type and impressing words on paper would be too strict of a limit. Therefore, "the only reasonable construction that can be given to 'printed and published' is that the paper must be produced in the community where it is aimed to have it recognized as a legal advertising medium." (Id. at p. 161.) Thus, the section 6006 exception protects newspapers such as the Ontario Weekly Herald. For example, prior to 1923, a newspaper such as the Ontario Weekly Herald could be a newspaper of general circulation in Ontario even though it was printed in Colton because all the other aspects of the newspaper's production occurred in Ontario. Upon passage of the 1923 law requiring printing to take place in the relevant city, the Ontario Weekly Herald could have lost its status as a newspaper of general circulation for Ontario, if not for the section 6006 exception for newspapers established as newspapers of general circulation prior to 1923. Due to that exception, the Ontario Weekly Herald could remain a newspaper of general circulation for Ontario. Section 6006 also protects newspapers that had a connection to a particular area, e.g., printing or producing the newspaper in the city, but have relocated. As an example, the exemption ( 6006) applies wherein a newspaper was printed in Anaheim prior to 1923, but then moved its printing operations to the City of Orange after 1923.