Atlanta: AJC Reach is Unlawful

CBS Atlanta reported yesterday that the city of Atlanta has deemed the “AJC Reach” – a bunch of ads stuffed in a plastic sleeve  – unlawful under the city’s ordinance litter law as a “handbill”, since it’s thrown onto the properties on subscribers and non-subscribers alike.  Some residents around Atlanta dislike the tossed ads so much that they’ve created a website [h/t: InDecatur]

In the segment, CBS attempted to get a response from the AJC on the city’s stance that if the newspaper didn’t change their method of delivery they would be cited.  But it was to no avail.

A quick look through Decatur’s city code reveals a similar law

Sec. 70-3. Same–Depositing, distributing on private property.

It shall be unlawful for any person to distribute or deposit any handbills, advertisements, printed matter or rubbish upon any real property located in the city without the consent of the owner thereof.

(Code 1967, § 3-3)

I’ll verify with the city, but to me it sounds like the AJC Reach is also unlawful in Decatur.

Photo courtesy of

35 thoughts on “Atlanta: AJC Reach is Unlawful”

    1. Russ, the DeKalb Neighbor says it’s a newspaper. This is a just a collection of newsprint with no substance… whoops.

  1. i just threw out an ajc reach yesterday that i found in the yard. i’d like to be able to opt out of this somehow if anyone finds a way! to me, it’s just more recycling & waste to be disposed of, etc.

    1. If you call the AJC and ask them not to deliver that product to you, they will stop. The only time you would receive one after that would be if the carrier mistakenly threw one. Most folks don’t seem to realize they can in fact opt out with a phone call.

      I used to work on the software they used to make those deliveries (boo-hiss for me, right?), and I know for a fact they try very hard to avoid delivering to people who have requested NOT to receive it. One of the main goals of the software was to try to avoid delivering to people who had requested not to receive it.

      Please understand that I’m no longer connected with that (and in NO WAY do I speak for the AJC) and can’t do anything about it if you really, really hate it. I just want to make sure folks realize that they can opt out.

      1. thanks for the tip! i’ll try that. and re: some other replies further down, i returned from a weekend trip out of town to find mine. so, yes, it is definitely an indicator that someone may not be home. at least with the dekalb neighbor you get the coupon inserts (which I’m finding out from my super couponing co-workers can really end up saving you lots of $$ if you know how to use them right).

  2. I’ve only received it for 2 or 3 weeks, and I already hate it with a passion! They don’t have any worthwhile coupons or other info IMO. A lot of neighbors don’t pick it up in a timely manner, which creates a trashy look on the street and advertises that certain folks may be out of town. Plus, multiple copies have ended up in my yard – not sure if it’s the wind or other neighbors or walkers just tossing their copies into my yard. Either way, it’s extremely annoying.

    HATE IT! CIty of Decatur, please stop this!!!

  3. I wonder if we could start a movement to collect them from everyone that doesn’t want their’s and go “deliver” them back to the AJC at their front door?

    1. Good idea, but since the AJC no longer reside in Atlanta that will require a long haul out to the burbs. Have you seen gas prices lately??

  4. Re the AJC Reach- I do wish they’d at the very least wait until after the weekend to throw them. It does highlight the houses where folks might be away. ( Big time this past weekend.)

    It’d also be great if the various business organizations would spread the word about this ordinance that DM has so kindly located. ( It was on my “to do” list! :0) Besides reducing litter, it’d cut down on wasted ad expenses for them AND any negative feelings generated towards the advertised business by the home owners.

    [ Re the Dekalb Neighbor- It’s probably a real eye opener to them to learn that folks aren’t even giving their paper a glance! For the past month I’ve been rediscovering it, and it actually has had some interesting stuff of the editorials page. Maybe folks on here have some ideas to actually make the whole paper a good read! ( And don’t forget that its Sports section supplies scrapbook memories for the kids that they’ll treasure for life.) ]

  5. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with the freebies. A Georgia Supreme Court case back in 1999 found it a violation of freedom of speech for a city to prohibit the distribution of these types of publications. So basically, these types of ordinances have about as much value as the DeKalb Neighbor and AJC Reach.

      1. That’s funny; the amicus briefs were submitted by at least two of Cox’s lawyers.

    1. Creative Loafing weighs in and claims the same Freedom of Speech thingy, with the caveat that it’s a slightly different story if it’s thrown on public property…

      “The local CBS affiliate ran a report over the weekend claiming that attorneys for the city say the AJC “is breaking the law.” Because the Reach is considered a “handbill” under Atlanta code, it can only be distributed on private property and only in a fashion that reasonably ensures it’s not going to blow around.

      Now, here’s where placement matters. This morning, just like every Tuesday morning, I picked the Reach off the very bottom of my driveway between the sidewalk and the street. This is public right-of-way and, as the CBS report suggests, leaving it there is an illegal act. As I drove down the street, I didn’t see a single Reach on private property. I’ll go as far as to submit that I cannot recall ever having seen a Reach lying on private property.

      But proving the AJC is breaking the law is another matter. Because the Reach is protected by the First Amendment — and because the AJC is presumably lawyered up — the city’s only real option here is to coax the Cox folks into dropping their ads into people’s yards, instead of in the right-of-way. And that, frankly, isn’t likely to satisfy angry neighbors.”

      1. The city should try coaxing the Cox folks into delivering it directly to recycle bins.

        You know, cut out the middle man and pass that savings directly on to the customer. Just like Tom Shane.

      2. So a bunch o’ ads wrapped up in plastic is protected by the First Amendment? I just don’t get it. Does anyone else think that defense cheapens, not strengthens, the First Amendment? Isn’t the First Amendment about protecting free speech, not advertising revenue?

        Then again, Creative Loafing has annoyed me since my friends and I read in horror a comic presentation of a drag queen friend’s murder in the Blotter about a dozen years ago. Apparently the author thought his apparel and some particularly identifiable details from the time of death left him without the right to dignity and the editors agreed. Believe it or not, I did fire off a few choice missives. So maybe it’s just that it’s CL offering the argument.

        1. First, this is America–if you don’t like it, move back to Russia–and crap advertising is our contribution to the great human experience.

          Second, the blotter is–or was, I haven’t read it years–dredged from actual police reports…which says a bit about APD, no?

          1. Oh, Gibbetts, you are so funny. Since you love advertising, let’s take all these over to your house. i want to WALLOW in the crap of American experience. I bet Russ would contribute to his DeKalb Neighbor collection.

            The Blotter is from police reports but the writer (who I actually knew) took great and malicious delight in her rewrite of this particular report. The Blotter- at least back then- was not word for word transcription.

            1. I do plan on smoking a good deal of meat this summer, so I will need some starter for the coals.

              Actually sounds like a good gig…I did write “dredged”….

        2. As a freelance writer with 30 years of experience and a master’s degree in journalism, let me weigh in on this.

          Times are tough for writers out here. Really, really tough.
          Newspapers are in a fight for survival, and may not survive.
          Those pesky “advertisements” are what helps pay the salaries of writers and editors.
          If laws forbid the distribution of those advertisements, you’ll see a lot more writers, editors and journalists doing other things to make a living.
          Newspapers are not the same as garbage, even if you don’t read them or think, like Glenn Beck, that they’re all left-wing lunatics. (Let’s see TV stations do their own original reporting, without newspapers).

          Newspapers depend upon advertising to support themselves, and this Reach publication is how they support themselves.

          Why is it surprising that Cox lawyers weighed in on this? The Cox sisters are extremely wealthy and this is their business.

          I could cite all the ways that an independent press has helped strengthen this country. All the current debate about what health care reform might do or not do is all due to a free press. But it’s only free in that it’s unrestricted.

          If we go to a system in which journalists are unable to earn a living by their work (which is where we seem to be headed), the only journalists working will be those who are independently wealthy. Frankly, that’s where I see us heading. We’re almost there already. Fox news and the like have managed to build a following with half truths that, when repeated enough, seem to morph into facts for many people.

          1. “I could cite all the ways that an independent press has helped strengthen this country.”

            Yeah, and none of them would involve free newspapers that are tossed on non-subscribers’ lawns.

            1. Those newspapers tossed on your lawn are helping to support the business. Fewer and fewer people are paying for the newspapers, so they’re trying to find other ways to make money. I understand your point–you think it’s trash and don’t want it.

              But try to get my point. That newspaper on your lawn is NOT the equivalent of a discarded candy wrapper. The wrapper is literally discarded trash. The newspaper has content that it is hoping you will read, so that you can read the advertisements and they, and the advertisers, can stay in business.

              1. Diane, I too earn my scratch as a periodical writer and editor, and I’m afraid I have to disagree with you somewhat. If we were talking about actual newspapers being distributed, unbidden, onto people’s property (or public right of ways or whatever), then I might see your point. But Reach isn’t a newspaper. It’s a fistful of crummy ad circulars in a plastic bag. There is zero editorial content. While it may subsidize the salaries of journalists, it does so at the cost of public goodwill and the environment. Trying to defend the practice on free speech grounds cheapens that argument.

      3. “Memorial Day – Mattress Blowout Sale!”: Tossed on public sidewalk without city’s consent — litter. Tossed in my yard without my consent – valuable contribution to our deliberative democracy!

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