Ohio's Biggest Newspapers Score Big With Legal Notice Ruling

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Your state legislators want to improve your access to legal news, and they’re determined to rally the last century’s finest resources to do it.

For years, municipal and county governments statewide have been required to buy advertising in newspapers to circulate word of sheriff’s sales, delinquent property tax notices, and other information for its citizenry to ignore.

Since there were no stipulations on exactly where these notices were to appear, most wound up in one of the state’s seven legal newspapers, niche products geared to lawyers and others who prefer their reading material to double as a sleep aid. Those publications, including Cleveland’s own Daily Legal News, have long been propped up by the compulsory revenue.

Now a new bill that passed the Ohio House earlier this month aims to require governments to purchase their ads exclusively in “newspapers of general circulation.” The change in definition would exclude legal papers, but would not exclude certain plucky, award-winning weekly newspapers who probably wouldn’t mind an additional dollar or two of ad revenue to keep the beer fridge full.

Daily Legal News Publisher Jeff Karlovec did not return Scene’s calls, but he told Crain’s Cleveland Business last week that such a law “would be a crippling blow to us.”

Meanwhile, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kathleen Chandler (D-Kent), says she tried to shoehorn legal publications into the definition, a move that would have had the modest impact of rendering the legislation virtually meaningless.

She adds that other legislators pushed for requiring the notices merely to be published online. That movement was silenced when one of them noted that enacting such a law would give them no further excuses to debate the issue over free lunches for at least another 300 years.

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