Wednesday, May 02, 2007

LAT Paid Circulation Stabilizes, But New Cutbacks

There is mildly encouraging news in the new circulation figures released earlier in the week for American newspapers, and even at the poorly-run L.A. Times actual daily paid circulation is up fractionally in the last six months, from 775,766 to 779, 256.

There is a discord between the L.A. Times circulation stories at the end of last October, and now, with emphasis being placed in Jim Rainey's story yesterday on a 4.2% decline in all daily circulation, to 815,723. But that figure reflected the distribution of unpaid promotional copies and was not commensurate with the story last October, which listed only the paid figure. So, I'm not sure Rainey was completely fair to his own newspaper. Although he mentions the paid figure of 779,256, he doesn't make clear that the basis for the released circulation figures has apparently changed.

Even considering this, it is worth noting that all circulation figures -- including unpaid promotions -- for the top dailies actually increased at four of the biggest 10. These included USA Today, up 0.2% to 2,278,022, the Wall Street Journal, up 0.6% to 2,062,312, the New York Post, up 7.6% to 724,748 and the New York Daily News, up 1.4% to 718,174. (The New York Post, it should be noted, is increasing its daily price to 50 cents from 25 next week, so it may go down in the next six month-period).

Six papers reported declines, including all -- not just paid -- circulation. The New York Times was down 1.9% to 1, 120,420. the L.A. Times down the 4.2% reported above to 815,723, the Washington Post, down 3.5% to 699,130, the hapless Chicago Tribune, down 2.1% to 566,827. the Houston Chronicle down 2% to 503,114, and the Arizona Republic, down 1.1% to 433,731,

These are only daily figures. Sunday circulation was off nearly everywhere.

It is worth noting that the Associated Press and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed the top 10 figures precisely, while, for what I believe is the first time, neither the L.A. Times nor the New York Times gave top 10 figures at all, I suppose because both papers' editors were embarrassed.

Apparently, next time, the Audit Bureau of Circulations will try, in some way, to give at least estimates of online circulation, which has been dramatically growing for all newspapers with Web sites. Of course, advertising on such sites is still, for the most part, in its comparative infancy.

Even while there was the silver lining of the notch upward in L.A. Times paid circulation, the squalid Chicago-toadying Times leadership, publisher David Hiller and editor James O'Shea, were busy, as they are almost every week now, mandating further denigration of the Times, ordering editors of the Orange County section into Los Angeles, where they will be even more disabled in competing with the Orange County Register than they are now, and announcing that the Times' executive dining room, the Gallery, is being shut down (according to a report in LA Observed).

The Gallery, formerly better named by Dorothy Chandler the Picasso Room, has been an important symbol of the Times taking itself seriously. It's been possible for top staffers to meet there for a pleasant top quality lunch every day, and even invite in outside guests.

When Dorothy Chandler was around, the food was better, but it remained fairly good. The beautiful Picasso pictures came down when the prudish and unbeloved last Times-Mirror CEO, Mark Willes, ordered them removed because, he told associates, he did not want his grandchildren to see even cartoon-type nudes. In taking this stand, Willes put himself in the same rank of fools who advised the Pope of that day to disallow Michelangelo from painting nudes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The reported closing is another sign that Hiller and O'Shea will, without protest, do whatever the inept Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons, tells them to do. These yellow-bellied cowards do not have the same stand up-for-the-Times mentality that John Carroll, Dean Baquet, John Puerner and Jeff Johnson, once did. But then, they will say, you know what happened to those guys.

Perhaps the garbage that may be left over from the halcyon days of the Gallery can be dumped in Hiller and O'Shea's offices as a sign of the contempt in which they are held by the staff, about to be diminished again by a new buyout and layoffs.


If Mark Arax is at all behind demands from the Armenian community in Glendale that Doug Frantz be fired as managing editor for killing an apparently one sided Arax story, he -- not Frantz -- should be fired immediately. It is important that Hiller and O'Shea try to salvage what little reputation they have left by standing by Frantz in the Arax matter.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gallery no longer a mgmt dining area, where outside guests were entertained. Any employee can eat there, just need to purchase a ticket at employee store. This change initiated by Puerner, pre-Johnson. But it is another thing to complain about, which where our focus should be now.

5/02/2007 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, the Gallery had better food before they changed contractors to ARAMark.

Second, Ken, why are you so sure Arax's story was biased? Did you actually see a copy of it? Why are Franz's connections to Turkish officials, who are not above the cheapest of political theater, excusable? But Arax's heritage and his signature on an in-house-only letter to Baquet regarding how qualifers were being used in Times stories about the Armenian Genocide are clear signs of a bias?

5/02/2007 3:15 PM  
Anonymous paul said...

This is outrageous. The topic Arax was assigned was to write on the Armenian Genocide. How are there two sides to historical events? Sure for the sake of arguement one could say the position of the Turkish officials Frantz is so buddy-buddy with counts as an "other side" to this widely-recognized historical fact, but since when does the mere fact that someone else in the world (say, Neo-Nazis for example) have a certain belief suddenly make it mandatory to include both those sides or else it's one-sided reporting?

5/04/2007 5:15 PM  

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