Southeastern Newspapers Corp. v. Griffin, 35840

Decision Date07 May 1980
Docket NumberNo. 35840,35840
Citation267 S.E.2d 21,245 Ga. 748
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court

Thomas H. Gignilliat, Morton G. Forbes, Savannah, for appellant.

Anton F. Solms, Jr., Gordon B. Smith, Steven E. Scheer, Don H. Harper, William N. Searcy, Savannah, David W. Griffeth, Athens, for appellees.

JORDAN, Presiding Justice.

The Savannah News-Press served as the official organ of Chatham County. On November 29, 1978, the Sheriff and Probate Judge of Chatham County designated the Georgia Gazette and Journal-Record (hereinafter the Georgia Gazette) as the county's official organ pursuant to Code Ann. § 39-1103.

The Savannah News-Press petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the sheriff, probate judge and clerk to rescind that order and sought an injunction against the Georgia Gazette to prohibit it from holding itself out as the county's official organ. After a hearing, the trial court held against the Savannah News-Press on all counts, and this appeal followed.

Central to this appeal is the language of Code Ann. § 39-1103, which provides in part as follows: "No journal or newspaper published in this State shall be declared or made the official organ of any county . . . unless such newspaper shall have been continuously published and mailed to a list of bona fide subscribers for a period of two years, or is the direct successor of such journal or newspaper, and unless 85 per cent. of the circulation of such newspaper or journal is paid circulation . . . "

The Savannah News-Press contends that the Georgia Gazette is unqualified under this statute because its predecessor, the Savannah Journal-Record with whom it merged, was predominantly a give-away with a list of only 68 paid subscribers and since it could not have qualified to be the official organ, its successor, the Georgia Gazette, should not be allowed to be designated simply by virtue of their merger. In addition, the Savannah News-Press argues that the Georgia Gazette did not meet the 85% paid circulation requirement on its date of designation, and that since it was not mechanically printed in Chatham County, it could not be deemed to be "published" within the county as is required by Code Ann. § 39-1101. For these reasons, the Savannah News-Press urges that the trial court erred in finding the Georgia Gazette qualified to be designated as the official organ.

1. The Savannah News-Press attempted to prove at the hearing that the Georgia Gazette did not have an 85% paid circulation rate through the use of the Georgia Gazette's own figures. Based on these same figures, the Georgia Gazette submitted an audit report which indicated that it had well over an 85% paid circulation rate. The difference between the two positions is due to the different characterizations of the term "paid circulation." The Savannah News-Press contends that the usage of "paid circulation" in Code Ann. § 39-1103 means subscriptions that have actually been paid for. The Georgia Gazette equates "paid circulation" with subscriptions actually paid for as well as accounts receivable. At the hearing, the Georgia Gazette attempted to prove that this was the accepted trade definition by introducing the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) rules pertinent to determining paid circulation.

"The ABC is a private non-profit organization which periodically audits and certifies the circulation of magazines (and newspapers)." Perlman v. Time, Inc., 64 Ill.App.3d 190, 20 Ill.Dec. 831, 380 N.E.2d 1040 (1978). Article B 8.3 of the ABC bylaws provides as follows: "When a dealer's account is over three months in arrears such portion of the draw which is in arrears over three months shall not be considered as measuring up to the Bureau's definition of paid circulation . . . "

The ABC rules simply provide a method of accounting similar to the accrual method that a newspaper may elect to use. The above-quoted provision...

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3 cases
  • Grech v. Clayton County, Ga.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • July 7, 2003
    ...a Judge, 265 Ga. 326, 454 S.E.2d 780, 783 (1995); Hart v. Madden, 256 Ga. 497, 349 S.E.2d 737, 738 (1986); Southeastern Newspapers Corp. v. Griffin, 245 Ga. 748, 267 S.E.2d 21 (1980) (citing two others); Griffin v. Chatham County, 244 Ga. 628, 261 S.E.2d 570 (1979) (county commission may co......
  • Southern Crescent Newspapers v. Dorsey
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • February 2, 1998
    ...within the context of OCGA § 9-13-142, and that the Code does not mandate one method over another. See Southeastern Newspapers Corp. v. Griffin, 245 Ga. 748, 749, 267 S.E.2d 21 (1980). Moreover, the third party professional audit of the Champion's circulation figures was performed by a Cert......
  • Fulton Nat. Bank of Atlanta v. Marshall
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • May 7, 1980
    ... ... Brand v. Montega Corp., 233 Ga. 32(3), 209 S.E.2d 581 (1974); see also Andrew v ... ...

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