Q: What potential issues lay ahead for me if I run for a local public office? If elected, I would prefer to continue in my roles as a weekly newspaper publisher, editor, photographer, ad salesperson, circulation manager, web poster and floor sweeper; also civic club member, band booster, church member, etc.
A: An industrious reporter could compile a list of known newspaper folks who currently or formerly have held a local public office. You can guess how long that list might be.
Few who have worked at a small town newspaper have not felt the pull to serve the community as an elected or appointed officer of a local governmental body. You might find yourself invited or even pushed to run or to accept an appointment, or you might have developed an internal hankering to do it all on your own.
Thankfully, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Ethics Committee has written a position paper that might work its way into your decision-making process. It is posted at: https://www.spj.org/ethics-papers-politics.asp
The paper is titled, “Political Involvement.”
Q: I have a customer who wants to put an ad in the paper for CBD oil. What are legalities of advertising that and is it legal to do that in Texas? Thanks!
A: A search of www.texaslegalnotices.com, which can produce a trove of information, yielded no keyword hits in display advertising on the terms cannabidiol or CBD. All of the hits on cannabidiol were in editorial copy on the topic and most of the hits on CBD, turned out to refer to the acronym standing for Central Business District.
Fortunately, a guest columnist who happens to have a law degree and decades of legal experience in Texas wrote about the topic in a recent issue of the Texas Press Messenger.
Please see David H. Donaldson Jr.’s discussion on the issue at: https://www.texaspress.com/ask-lawyer-can-i-run-cannabis-ad
Q: Our reporter/photographer snapped photos of a house fire before the local fire department showed up. The owner of the property wants photo coverage of the incident removed from our website and archive. I want some input on what to do in this situation.
A: An “Ask an Attorney” guest column by Thomas J. Williams of Haynes Boone LLP concerns whether or not to redact a newspaper’s archive, Please see: https://www.texaspress.com/node/5254
Here is a link to another article, “Removing material from your archives,” posted by the Online News Association: https://ethics.journalists.org/topics/removing-material-from-your-archives/
The article tackles these questions:
• How does removing material from your archives square with being transparent about what you have reported?
• Should true material ever be deleted?
• What about deleting material from social networks?
• What alternatives are there to deleting material from social networks or from your own archives?
Q: My husband and I have been publishing this newspaper for a long, long, time and all of a sudden, the city manager says he’s not going to pay to run the usual public notice of the election filing deadline in the newspaper. All he plans to do is put the information on the city’s website, where nobody ever looks. There are vacancies on city council and I checked the filings to see if anyone is running for those open seats. So far, it’s a dry hole. In previous elections, when the notice has been published in the newspaper, candidates file. What can I do to get this notice back in the public eye?
A: This is a classic illustration of a mistake that some local government officials seem peculiarly susceptible to. That mistake is in making an assumption that posting information on a local governmental body’s web page alone serves as public notice.
Let’s look at Texas Election Code Chapter 141, Candidacy for Public Office Generally, Subchapter B, Application for Place on Ballot, Notice of Deadlines, which can be found at: https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/EL/htm/EL.141.htm#141.040
And here is a link to the PDF of the above-referenced notice: https://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/pol-sub/3-2af.pdf
When you read Election Code 141.040, you will find that notice of a filing deadline says (a) The authority with whom an application for a place on the ballot under this subchapter must be filed shall post notice of the dates of the filing period in a public place in a building in which the authority has an office not later than the 30th day before:
(1) the first day on which a candidate may file the application; or
(2) the last day on which a candidate may file the application, if this code does not designate a first day on which the candidate may file the application.
However — and this is where human nature comes into play — your readers are creatures of habit, and as your question suggests, it doesn’t usually work out too well when something gets changed all of a sudden. In this case, it’s about not having the public notice of the filing deadline in the newspaper, where in your community, readers have found public notices of this type and all sorts of others all the way back to when they first started caring about the official acts of their local governmental bodies and elected officials.