FULTON, NY – The Fulton Common Council will host a public hearing on Tuesday, January 8 at 7 p.m. regarding a change to city code in reference to the official city newspaper.
City officials designate an official city newspaper for a one-year duration at the first meeting of each year.
The official city newspaper must be “published in the City of Fulton and have their principal place of business in the City of Fulton…” according to current city code.
It further states that the official city newspaper is responsible to “publish all notices, bylaws, rules and regulations, ordinances, local laws, annual reports, monthly reports, budgets and such other reports and other matters as the Common Council, the City Charter or state or federal law directs to be published…”
Currently, the Valley News is designated as the official newspaper for the city of Fulton through the duration of 2018.
Effective January 1, 2019, however, city officials were notified that the Valley News will be relocating it’s business office from Fulton to Oswego.
Subsequently, city officials were faced with the decision to select a different official newspaper or to amend the city code to allow the city’s official newspaper to be able to operate its business outside the city of Fulton limits.
Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. said that, if allowed, Fulton would have utilized Oswego County Today as the city’s official newspaper given it meets the requirement to operate its business location within city limits.
“Absolutely we would have,” he said of designating Oswego County Today. “We would much rather have our official paper located within Fulton.”
Despite being a locally-owned, free, daily news publication, Oswego County Today was restricted from acting as an official news publication for the city because New York State does not recognize strictly online news publications as an option for an official city newspaper.
Current Consolidated Laws of New York State under General Construction Law: Article 2, Section 60 dictates that “the term ‘newspaper’ shall mean a paper of general circulation which is printed and distributed ordinarily not less frequently than once a week, and has been so for at least one year immediately preceding such publication or advertisement…” and which also “has a paid circulation…” among other restrictions.
Woodward was unable to recommend Oswego County Today to the Fulton Common Council for designation as the city’s official newspaper because it is not a printed publication distributed in a paid circulation as required by law, instead it is free to all readers online without need for subscription.
City officials were forced to fall back to the only remaining option – to amend city code to allow the official city newspaper to be located outside city limits.
“It’s sad. The Valley News has been here since I can remember and really, I’m sick of everything going to Oswego. Not that I have anything against the city, Oswego is a beautiful place, but our city newspaper should belong in the city,” Woodward said.
“Oswego County Today is a real newspaper, the confusion is the medium it is delivered. We don’t deliver on paper, however the information is just as important. The information is much easier for everybody to obtain; computer, cell phone and tablets. Oswego County Today was established in 1999 as Fulton Daily News. We have thousands of daily loyal readers,” said Fred Reed, Vice President of DOT Publishing Inc./Oswego County Today.
Given support from city officials, Dot Publishing Inc./Oswego County Today President Joe Aiello said the oversight of online news publications in state law falls solely on state politicians.
“In this day and age, this law as written is no different than the old ‘spitting on the sidewalk’ laws. The law and state legislature has not kept it current to meet the needs of their constituents- a huge failing of our state politicians. Furthermore, it shows a total disregard and contradicts their ‘professed’ support for cutting government expenses. They seem to ‘cow-tow’ to the large publishers who know that this cash ‘cow’ could potentially disappear or worse yet create competition,” Aiello said.
Ultimately, OCT executives believe NYS law should consider moving forward with a changing technological world to incorporate online news publications for official municipal publication needs.
“One thing that moves really slowly is government, especially in New York. This is a changing world, we don’t ride horses anymore, email is a legal form of communication and can be used in a New York State court of law. Why can’t a digital publication be News Publication of Record? A community that feels a digital publication fits this purpose should be able to make the choice best for their needs,” Reed said.
The battle to include online publications as official news sources has reached state government before, but several bills on the matter thus far have failed to adopt.