CNewspaper of General Circulationalifornia Government Code sections 6000 and 6008 are the two statutes that allow a publication to become adjudicated as a newspaper of general circulation (NGC) in California. This entitles the newspaper to publish legal advertising in its particular jurisdiction of adjudication. This article outlines the general parameters of these two statutes.

California Government Code Section 6000

Section 6000 provides:

A “newspaper of general circulation” is a newspaper published for the dissemination of local or telegraphic 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 in the State, county, or city where publication, notice by publication, or official advertising is to be given or made for at least one year preceding the date of the publication, notice or advertisement.

To expand, the requirements of Government Code Section 6000 are:

  1. “Published for the dissemination of local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character”
    • Government Code section 6001 explains that a newspaper of general circulation (NGC) cannot be “devoted to the interests, or published for the entertainment or instruction of a particular class, profession, trade, calling, race, or denomination, or for any number thereof, when the avowed purpose is to entertain or instruct such classes . . . .”
  2. “Bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers”
    • A list is “bona fide” if it is a “real, actual, genuine subscription list.” In re Herman (1920) 183 Cal. 153, 164. There is no statute specifying the number of paying subscribers that must be on this list.
  3. “Established” in the county, city or other political jurisdiction where where adjudication is sought for at least one year preceding the petition.
    • Government Code section 6002 explains that a newspaper is “established” if it has “been in existence under a specified name during the whole of the one-year period . . . .”
  4. “Printed” at least weekly in the county, city or other political jurisdiction where adjudication is sought for at least one year preceding the petition.
    • Government Code section 6003 explains that a newspaper is “printed” as required by law if “the mechanical work of producing it, that is the work of typesetting and impressing type on paper” is completed in the city or county where adjudication is sought.
  5. “Published” at least weekly in county or city where adjudication is sought for at least one year preceding the petition for adjudication.

This outline provides only the broad requirements for adjudication under Section 6000. Contact a California newspaper of general circulation attorney to understand the intricacies of the law.

Government Code section 6000 was enacted in 1943 and was the only method for adjudication until Section 6008 was enacted in 1974 providing the alternative criteria.

California Government Code Section 6008

Section 6008 provides:

Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a newspaper is a “newspaper of general circulation” if it meets the following criteria:

(a) It is a newspaper published for the dissemination of local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character, which has a bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers and has been established and published at regular intervals of not less than weekly in the city, district, or judicial district for which it is seeking adjudication for at least three years preceding the date of adjudication.

(b) It has a substantial distribution to paid subscribers in the city, district, or judicial district in which it is seeking adjudication.

(c) It has maintained a minimum coverage of local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character of not less than 25 percent of its total inches during each year of the three-year period.

(d) It has only one principal office of publication and that office is in the city, district, or judicial district for which it is seeking adjudication.

For the purposes of Section 6020, a newspaper meeting the criteria of this section which desires to have its standing as a newspaper of general circulation ascertained and established, may, by its publisher, manager, editor, or attorney, file a verified petition in the superior court of the county in which it is established and published.

As used in this section:

(1) “Established” means in existence under a specified name during the whole of the three-year period, except that a modification of name in accordance with Section 6024, where the modification of name does not substantially change the identity of the newspaper, shall not affect the status of the newspaper for the purposes of this definition.

(2) “Published” means issued from the place where the newspaper is sold to or circulated among the people and its subscribers during the whole of the three-year period.

To expand, the requirements of Section 6008 are:

  1. “Dissemination of local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character”
    • Government Code section 6001 explains that a newspaper of general circulation cannot be “devoted to the interests, or published for the entertainment or instruction of a particular class, profession, trade, calling, race, or denomination, or for any number thereof, when the avowed purpose is to entertain or instruct such classes . . . .”
  2. “It has maintained a minimum coverage of local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character of not less than 25 percent of its total inches during each year of the three-year period.”
    • In other words, 25% of the content in the publication must be the local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character. The use of the term “inches” suggests that in a close case, a court could compare the number of square inches in a publication used for the content as compared to the total number of square inches in the publication.
  3. “[H]as a bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers” and “has a substantial distribution to paid subscribers in the city, district, or judicial district in which it is seeking adjudication.”
    • A list of paying subscribers is “bona fide” if it is a “real, actual, genuine subscription list.” In re Herman (1920) 183 Cal. 153, 164. Although there is no statute specifying the number of subscribers that must be on this list, Section 6008 requires a “substantial” distribution to paying subscribers. In contrast, Section 6000 provides no “substantial” requirement.
  4. “[H]as been established . . . for at least three years preceding the date of adjudication.”
    • “‘Established’ means in existence under a specified name during the whole of the three-year period . . . .” Gov. Code section 6008(1).
  5. “[H]as been . . . published [at least] weekly in the city, district, or judicial district for which it is seeking adjudication”
    • “‘Published’ means issued from the place where the newspaper is sold to or circulated among the people and its subscribers during the whole of the three-year period.” Gov. Code section 6008(2).
  6. “It has only one principal office of publication and that office is in the city, district, or judicial district for which it is seeking adjudication.”
    • In other words, the publication’s “principal” office of publication must be in the city, county, district or judicial district for which adjudication is sought. See In re Tri-Valley Herald (1985) 169 Cal.App.3d 865 for a more expansive discussion of this requirement.
  7. “[A] newspaper meeting the criteria of this section which desires to have its standing as a newspaper of general circulation ascertained and established, may, by its publisher, manager, editor, or attorney, file a verified petition in the superior court of the county in which it is established and published.”
    • A petition for adjudication must be verified by the publication’s publisher, manager, editor, or attorney.

Again, the outline, above, provides only the broad requirements for adjudication under Section 6008. Contact a California newspaper of general circulation attorney to understand the intricacies of the law.

If you have specific questions about the statutory scheme governing newspapers of general circulation, contact a California media lawyer with experience counseling publications large and small with concerns related to newspaper legal advertising.

Associate Attorney Scott Talkov and Senior Attorney James J. Manning, Jr. have represented petitioners and contestants of national, regional and local prominence in newspaper of general circulation litigation in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Scott may be contacted at stalkov@rhlaw.com and at (951) 682-1771. Jim may be contacted at jmanning@rhlaw.com and at (951) 682-1771.

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About Scott Talkov

Scott Talkov is a Shareholder in the Riverside office of Reid & Hellyer, one of the Inland Empire's oldest law firms. He practices real estate, business and bankruptcy litigation. He has been repeatedly named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine.

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About James J. Manning, Jr.

James J. Manning, Jr. is a Senior Attorney with the Reid & Hellyer law firm in Riverside and Mission Viejo and has been with the firm throughout his career since 1976. He practices media law, civil litigation, construction law and mediation. Jim holds an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbard and has been named as one of the Inland Empire's best lawyers by Inland Empire Magazine for several years.

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