Closure of newspapers reduces publishing options for county | Mason City and Northern Iowa

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Mary LodenGlobe Gazette

Cerro Gordo County lost a longtime newspaper last week, temporarily leaving the County Board of Supervisors wondering how to stay compliant for future publication of county legal notices.

County Auditor Adam Wedmore says the Iowa code says the county should publish these articles in three newspapers. The closure of Rockwell’s Pioneer Enterprise leaves Cerro Gordo with only two newspapers that meet the criteria for readership.

Iowa’s code states that county minutes, claims, and public announcements must be published in three designated newspapers. Wedmore contacted Susan Patterson Plank of the Iowa Newspaper Association. She told him that Cerro Gordo wasn’t the only county going through this with increasing closures or consolidations.

According to Wedmore, Plank said his interpretation of the Iowa code leaves two options. The first would be to select a nearby county newspaper that has subscribers in Cerro Gordo County, such as the Garner Leader or the Hampton Chronicle. The second option is to simply use the two remaining county publications.

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On Tuesday, the oversight board decided to publish in just two newspapers, The Globe Gazette and Clear Lake Mirror Reporter. At an earlier meeting to discuss the matter, Wedmore said County Attorney Carlyle Dalen agreed with that interpretation and would support the decision.

Wedmore said many people have wondered if it’s time for Iowa’s code to be changed to no longer require city and county governments to post notices in newspapers, since most of those entities have publicly available websites and social media accounts. Currently, the county pays its designated newspapers $30,000 a year to publish them.

Until the law changes, the county must still publish in the county’s two remaining newspapers. “Currently, we exceed the minimum requirements. We put everything on our website, as well as anything from our office goes on our social media accounts as well,” Wedmore said.

Outside of code, Wemore said he had a more pressing concern. “As the newspapers close, how do we continue to keep people informed?”

Mary Loden covers city and county government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach her by emailing [email protected]

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