Court Says Wall Street Journal is Local Newspaper in Los Angeles

By Robyn Hagan Cain on October 17, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you ever doubt the criticism that we live in an overly-litigious society, consider this: A California appellate court issued an opinion last week in a matter questioning whether The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) was a local paper in Los Angeles.

Why should this matter come before any California court, much less an appellate court? Because official notices must be published in a local newspaper of general circulation under California law.

The WSJ is a daily newspaper published in New York City and several other cities by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Andrew P. Johnson, a manager of Dow Jones & Company, Inc., filed a petition to declare the WSJ a newspaper of general circulation for the City of Los Angeles.

The Metropolitan News Company (MNC) opposed the petition, arguing that the WSJ is a national newspaper and "is not a Los Angeles newspaper."

The basis for MNC's theory? Typesetting, (or computer key-plunking, as MNC called it), takes place in New York, not Los Angeles; therefore the WSJ is not printed in Los Angeles. MNC argued further that a newspaper can be "printed and published" in only one city and therefore cannot qualify as a newspaper of general circulation for more than one city.

There's actually been a lot of litigation on the issue of what constitutes a local paper, so the court had extensive case law from which to glean its opinion.

The result? A newspaper is "printed," within the California legal lexicon, at the place where the printing press produces circulation copies of the newspaper.

By this definition, the WSJ is printed in Los Angeles because the mechanical work of producing circulation copies of the newspaper has taken place in Los Angeles for the requisite period of time. The location where the newspaper reporters type their stories or, in MNC's words, "plunk on keys of PCs to form the images of letters," is irrelevant.

So if you've always wanted to see your name in the WSJ, and you need to print a notice in a Los Angeles newspaper of general circulation, you can legally publish your official notice in The Wall Street Journal. The famous hedcuts, however, are not included with your publication purchase.

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