While the judgment does not affect the overall look of the newspaper or how the information is delivered each week, it opens up the possibility of increased content.
In August, the locally owned and operated newspaper notified the Darke County Sheriff and the Clerk of Courts that it could save Darke County and local banks tens of thousands of dollars a year by publishing legal ads in The Early Bird. Plus, The Early Bird could deliver those advertisements to over six times as many households as the daily paper, which is owned by a large out-of-state corporation.
The Sherriff notified the daily paper in early September that he would be switching their legal advertising to The Early Bird. The daily paper asked for a mediation hearing and one was held on Sept. 24 in Judge Hein’s court room. The judge determined there was nothing to mediate. Acting on behalf of The Early Bird, Attorney Eric Brand indicated he would file papers asking for a “declaratory judgment” on the law, which was changed in September 2011.
Previously, a newspaper was required to be a paid publication, with no less than four pages, have a second class mailing privilege, and contain news and information.
The revised law eliminated mail delivery as the sole means of delivery. Also dropped was the requirement that the publication be paid. Several other provisions of the law were also changed, requiring the newspaper be in existence at least three years (change from one year) and have at least eight pages. The newspaper must also contain at least 25-percent editorial content.
According to the decision by Judge Hein, The Early Bird’s only remaining requirement is to complete an audit.
Fred Foutz, publisher, said, “We are in the process of completing an audit with the Circulation Verification Council (CVC) a national newspaper auditing firm. After that time we will again approach the Sheriff, Darke County Treasurer Scott Zumbrink, Clerk of Courts, all township and village administrators and local attorneys in an effort to save taxpayers money and increase the reach of all legal advertisements in Darke County.”