City of Plainfield v. Courier-News, COURIER-NEWS and T

Decision Date05 April 1974
Docket NumberCOURIER-NEWS and T
Citation369 A.2d 529,146 N.J.Super. 188
PartiesThe CITY OF PLAINFIELD, Plaintiff, v. Thehe Daily Journal, Defendants.
CourtNew Jersey Superior Court

Edward W. Beglin, Plainfield, for plaintiff (Crane, Beglin & Vastola, P.A., Plainfield, attorneys).

Lawrence Schechterman, East Brunswick, for defendant The Courier-News.

Matthew D. W. Wade, Elizabeth, for defendant The Daily Journal (Richard R. O'Connor, Elizabeth, attorney).

McGRATH, J.C.C.

This matter comes before the court on a complaint for a declaratory judgment. Plaintiff, a municipal corporation, seeks a determination whether defendant, The Courier-News, is qualified and eligible to be designated as its official newspaper and qualified for the publication of all of its municipal ordinances, resolutions, public notices and official advertisements. Plaintiff further seeks a determination that if The Courier-News is not so qualified and eligible, whether defendant, The Daily Journal, is so qualified and eligible. The action is brought under N.J.S.A. 2A:16--50 Et seq.

The Courier-News was established as a newspaper in Plainfield in 1884 as the Evening News. Its name was changed slightly several times but in 1961 it became The Courier-News. It maintained its entire plant in a two-story building owned by it on Church Street in Plainfield. In March 1972, however, the main office, printing presses and general equipment were moved from the Church Street location to a new facility in Bridgewater Township in the adjoining County of Somerset. It should be pointed out that the City of Plainfield is in the unique position of being in the southwest corner of Union County adjacent to the counties of Middlesex and Somerset.

The building on Church Street was subsequently sold and the entire first floor, an area 25 40 , was leased back to The Courier-News as offices for clerical people, several reporters, advertising salesmen and advertising dispatchers. Specifically, there are three reporters in the Plainfield office. One reporter is a general news reporter, one handles police matters in Plainfield and surrounding communities, and one handles city government news. Additionally, there are three people engaged in advertising sales; one handles retail advertising in the eastern portion of Plainfield and towns east of Plainfield such as Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Westfield, etc., one handles banks and larger stores in the Plainfield area, and one handles ads for the district including South Plainfield. The Plainfield office also has a full-time office clerk who handles clerical work and receives people who visit the office. Her duties include the handling of classified ads and receipt of payments for same. This office includes several advertising dispatchers. They are termed 'pick up kids.' One such person works afternoons and gathers ad material from the merchants and gives these items to another person from the same department. He then delivers it to the main plant where other such material is 'picked up' for delivery back to the merchants.

Aside from these persons, all of the other personnel of the newspaper ar located at the new plant in Bridgewater, except that there is an office in Elizabeth which has one employee, an office in Flemington which has three employees, an office in Basking Ridge which has three employees, and an office in New Brunswick which has one employee. All of the other persons employed, totalling 232 in number, work in the new plant in Bridgewater.

The proofs for The Courier-News established that circulation in Plainfield approximate 8800 daily copies, and according to the undisputed testimony of John J. Curley, who, until recently, was its editor, publisher and president, the Courier 'puts papers into circulation there (Plainfield) first each day.' Prior to the move of the plant facilities to Somerset County in March 1972, the newspaper was entered as second-class mail matter with the postoffice in Plainfield, and, after the move was made, it was entered as second-class mail matter in Somerville, the Plainfield postal entry being discontinued at that time. The paper is circulated in Union, Hunterdon, Morris, Warren, Middlesex and Somerset Counties.

The circulation manager and the advertising manager have their offices in the Bridgewater plant. The books and records pertaining to advertising and classified advertisements are kept in Bridgewater. The city editor and his staff handle the review of the news in Bridgewater and nothing is printed without review for editing by the Bridgewater personnel. All composing for advertising is accomplished in the Bridgewater office, as is the composing room for news. There are some 16 trucks owned by the company, garaged and operated out of the Bridgewater delivery room, which is apparently the only delivery room. The total newspapers printed each day approximate 62,000 to 63,000. (One-seventh of its newspapers, therefore, are distributed in the Plainfield area.) The masthead of the Courier states that it is entered as second-class matter in Somerville and that the address of the newspaper is Box #3600, Somerville, New Jersey. In the 1973 Plainfield telephone book, the address of the Courier is given as Somerville, New Jersey. The telephone number in the classified section of the paper is a Fanwood exchange however, apparently because it services the Union County municipalities of Plainfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Westfield and Summit as toll-free calls.

The Daily Journal, formerly known as the Elizabeth Daily Journal, circulated very few newspapers in Plainfield or even canvassed the advertisers to any extent prior to the time that the Courier moved its plant to Bridgewater. It was about the time that it generally became known that the Courier was going to move, that the Journal became interested in extending its circulation into the western part of the County, particularly Plainfield. Since its extended program began, the Journal has increased its daily circulation to approximately 1100. In 1971 its daily circulation in Plainfield was about 12 copies a day.

The Daily Journal has maintained its main plant with all of its principal offices and printing presses in Elizabeth since 1879, with its official office shown in its masthead as Elizabeth. It was entered as second-class matter at the postoffice in Elizabeth in 1879. Elizabeth and Plainfield are both in Union County.

The Courier has been publishing legal advertising for the City of Plainfield for years. On January 1, 1974 the City Council of Plainfield adopted a resolution again designating The Courier-News, 'a newspaper published and circulating in the City of Plainfield * * * 'as the official newspaper of the City of Plainfield for the publication of all advertisements and notices required by law to be published by the City of Plainfield.' Apparently someone raised a question as the legality of such a resolution and the future publication of ordinances, official advertising and the like in the Courier. The municipality therefore instituted the present action.

N.J.S.A. 35:1--1 provides that 'official advertising' and 'official advertisements' includes all matters required by law to be published. On the question of newspapers qualified as legal newspaper, N.J.S.A. 35:1--2 provides:

* * * All newspapers printed and published in the English language within the state at least once a week for at least one year continuously shall be deemed legal newspapers for the publication of official advertisements. Any court or county officer may publish official advertisements in any Sunday newspaper published in the county for the period of at least one year and such publication shall be valid in all respects.

Further qualifications for publications by counties, municipalities, individuals and corporations and the qualifications of a newspaper acquiring a qualified newspaper are found in N.J.S.A. 35:1--2.2, which provides in pertinent part as follows:

Whenever, by law, it is required that there be published by printing and publishing in a newspaper or newspapers ordinances, resolutions or notices or advertisements of any sort, kind or character by any county, city or other municipality or municipal corporation, or by any municipal board or official board, or body, or office, or officials or by any person or corporation, such newspaper or newspapers must, in addition to any other qualification now required by law, meet the following qualifications, namely: said newspaper or newspapers shall be entirely printed in the English language, shall be printed and published within the State of New Jersey, shall be a newspaper of general paid circulation possessing an average news content of not less than 35%, shall have been published continuously in the municipality where its publication office is situate for not less than 2 years and shall have been entered for 2 years as second-class mail matter under the postal laws and regulations of the United States.

N.J.S.A. 40:49--2 provides in pertinent part as follows:

* * * (a) Every ordinance after being introduced and having passed a first reading, which first reading may be by title, shall be published at least once in a newspaper published and circulated in the municipality, if there be one, and if not, in a newspaper printed in the county and circulating in the municipality, together with a notice of the introduction thereof and the time and place when and where it will be further considered for final passage.

* * * (d) Upon passage, every ordinance, or the title, together with a notice of the date of passage or approval, or both, shall be published at least once in a newspaper circulating in the municipality, if there be one, and if not, in a newspaper printed in the county and circulating in the municipality. No other notice or procedure with respect to the introduction or passage of any ordinance shall be required.

N.J.S.A. 40A:2--19 provides:

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