Does a newspaper have to meet any requirements to qualify for publication of legal notices, ordinances, etc.?
Yes. Generally speaking, publication must
be in a newspaper “likely to give notice in the area or to the person
affected” and one that is eligible. Wis. Stat. sec. 985.02(1).
To qualify for the publication of legal
notices, a newspaper must meet certain requirements. The paper must
report news and publish regularly, at least once a week. For at least
two of the five year period prior to publication of a notice, the paper
must have published regularly and continuously in the municipality and
must have a bona fide paid circulation of at least half of its
circulation and must have a designated number of subscribers. Wis. Stat.
The circulation requirements of
985.03(1) generally disqualify “shoppers” for publication of legal
notices since they usually do not have a defined number of subscribers.
Accordingly, they may not be used for publication of legal notices,
ordinances, etc., with the limited exception in certain circumstances,
for publication of village board proceedings. See Community Newspapers v. City of West Allis, 156 Wis. 2d350, 456 N.W.2d 646 (Ct. App.1990); 71 OAG 177 (1982); 75 OAG 269 (1986).
In order to be eligible for publication
of legal notices, a newspaper must also file a certificate with the
county clerk stating that it qualifies under Wis. Stat. sec. 985.03, and
stating its place of publication. Wis. Stat. sec. 985.03(2).
It is important for municipal
officials to be aware of the newspaper qualification requirements. A
person charged with the duty of publishing a legal notice who causes it
to be published in an ineligible paper or fails to publish a legal
notice in an eligible paper is subject to a criminal penalty fine of up
to $100 for each offense. Wis. Stat. sec. 985.03(2).