According to Tennessee law and precedent, The Murfreesboro Post is a newspaper of general circulation.
According to an Attorney General’s opinion from May 2007, “The Murfreesboro Post is a … newspaper of general circulation for the purpose of publication of most official notices.”
The Post doesn’t qualify under state law to publish notice from the Election Commission because it is a free publication, but in all other public notice instances it qualifies.
Earlier this week Chancellor Robert Corlew opined “the county should consider using its TV channel and internet more as well as making notices available in other mediums, even though it wasn’t entered as proof to what extent the county made notice,” Post contributor Christian Grantham reported.
Corlew went on to editorialize, with no substantiating evidence, that The Post may not be a newspaper of general circulation because it is published weekly and distributed across the county in racks and boxes for free.
But under Tennessee State Law, it is.
According to Cook v. McCullough, a 1989 case cited by the Attorney General in his aforementioned 2007 opinion, even a weekly publication can be considered a newspaper of general circulation for the purposes of public notice.
Cook et al. set forth three criteria to judge whether a newspaper is of general circulation:
1. The publication should be available in all parts of the county.
The Post distributes 9,000 copies to more than 300 rack and box locations across Rutherford County, as well as 12,000 copies to homes in the Murfreesboro city limits.
2. It should be published at least weekly.
The Post is available to readers every Sunday.
3. It should contain at least 50 percent news of general interest to that public.
The Post carries local, political, sports and business features weekly, as well as community events and news of general interest.
Furthermore, had Corlew actually heard arguments on this topic, he would have known public notices can not be broadcast on the radio and television or posted on the internet and still count as sufficient notice per Tennessee Code Annotated. Only newspapers of general circulation carry that privilege.
For example, Cannon County only has one locally produced newspaper, the weekly Cannon Courier.
By his reasoning The Courier is inadequate for public notice because it is only produced weekly.
Another daily paper is distributed there, but only delivers 300 subscriptions. Is that a better alternative? In fact, Davidson County has one of the state’s largest daily papers and three free weeklies that publish public notices.
The Tennessee Press Association has 100 weekly member papers, compared to 26 dailies, that proudly serve their populations well.
Are all these papers inadequate for local governments to tell the public about upcoming meetings, hearings, budget changes, etc?
In short, no.