A recent decision ruled against Santa Clarita Gazette and Free Classifieds becoming a “newspaper of record” for the Santa Clarita Valley, although Publisher Doug Sutton said it’s likely to not be the last ruling on the matter.
Santa Clarita Classifieds printed a notice in The Signal back in May, seeking its status as a newspaper of record. Such designation is required for a publication to carry lucrative legal advertisements, such as foreclosure announcements.
Sutton, who is the owner and one of the founders of the publication, is seeking legal permission to call itself a newspaper that, under state law, required certain facts The Signal successfully contested.
“The petitioner did not have enough paid subscribers, and there was not enough editorial content,” said Jim Manning, attorney for Reid & Hellyer, a firm The Signal hired for the decision.
The requirements for adjudication are laid out by California Government Code Section 6000, which states the paper must have at least 25 percent of its content dedicated to editorial content, that the paper has a bona fide subscriber list and that the paper be printed for at least a year prior to it seeking status as a newspaper of general circulation.
Sutton said the judge announced early on at the Sept. 20 hearing that he wouldn’t be compelled to grant a second newspaper of record based on the facts presented, however, the publisher walked away encouraged by what the judge had said.
“At first, he was concerned with the subscriber list, but when I argued the point, he questioned the opposing attorney on it,” Sutton said. “(The opposing attorney) said we’re not contesting the paid subscriber list, we’re contesting why the paid subscribers paid for their their subscription.”
After determining that the list was valid and distributed through the mail and by hand delivery, Sutton said, “The judge was very encouraging.”
“He said, ‘I don’t see why you can’t be adjudicated by pumping up the subscriber list a little bit,’” Sutton said, paraphrasing the judge.
“At one point, I thought he might reverse his decision,” he added, noting that he intended to file for adjudication again at a later date.
“It ends the matter for now,” Manning said, “but people are always free to file a new petition if the facts change, just as people are always free to file a contest of a ruling.”