The Dawson News & Advertiserhas served the residents and businesses of this community for 125 years. For more than a dozen decades, we have stood for fair and equal government. We believe the approach to handling legal advertising should be fair and equal, too. But theres nothing fair about the way Probate Judge Jennifer Burt, Sheriff Billy Carlisle and Clerk of Court Justin Power went about controlling the countys legal advertising for 2012.
Legal advertising - publication of notices such as foreclosures and other material required by law to be published in the newspaper of record in each county - is controlled by Burt, Carlisle and Power, as mandated by the state of Georgia.
Dawson County has two newspapers fully qualified to serve as the countys legal organ. TheDawson News & Advertiserwas last the legal organ in 2008. The officials decided to rotate newspapers first for two years, but opted to extend the time to three, and now four years. In 2010, the officials entertained the idea of reinstituting the rotation, as they did again this year.
On Sept. 21, 2011, our newspaper received a fax notice naming theDawson Community Newsthe legal organ for a fourth year. We think this is unfair. The coy way the officials have handled this important matter is both frustrating and troubling. We think the good people of Dawson County ought to be perplexed, too.
In separate interviews, Burt, Carlisle and Power each gave the same story: the other newspaper, they said, claims more paid circulation, and they want legal notices read by as many taxpayers as possible.
We will concede that legal advertising attracts readers.If our newspaper were the legal organ, we would have more readers, too. U.S. Postal documents show that our newspaper and the other newspapers circulation are comparable, considering the paid mail subscriptions. The difference is the reported number of street sales - those newspapers sold from boxes or in convenience stores.
The Dawson Community Newsclaims it sells twice the number of copies on the street than we do.Street sales of newspapers are not as easily verified as those sent through the mail, and we cant make the numbers add up.When we brought this to the attention of the probate judge, sheriff and clerk of court, they just shrugged.
When we pointed to the officials our record of service to Dawson County - including annually assisting fundraising for local nonprofits such as KARE for Kids, United Way, Veterans Affairs of Dawson County and many others - they chose to ignore this also.
Burt, Carlisle and Power met separately with representatives of each newspaper, and then went behind closed doors to decide who would be the legal organ of Dawson County in 2012. The way these officials handled this important piece of the peoples business does not pass the sniff test.If you were operating a small business in this community and were qualified to serve Dawson County, wouldnt you want your fair chance to receive $10,000 per month in revenue?
Burt,Carlisle and Power may have chosen to inflict an economic hardship upon our newspaper, but that wont stop us from continuing to serve the residents and taxpayers of Dawson County fairly, without fear and without favoritism.
Were going to keep asking questions, and we hope you do, too.