Thursday, November 4

Times, Too, Doing The Circ Jerk

The circulation jerkulation speculation widens:
A wide-reaching federal investigation into newspaper circulation practices has knocked on the door of a fourth New York daily--The New York Times. The Times said yesterday it received a subpoena for documents from the U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn. The paper said the order--received on Tuesday, when the New York Post and the Daily News also got subpoenas from the Brooklyn office--was issued in conjunction with the ongoing grand jury probe of circ operations at Newsday. The subpoena covers a three-year period--from when the Post began to show industry eyebrow-raising circ gains after cutting its price in half, to 25 cents, on copies sold in the city. The Times, while declining to say what documents the feds want, added that the U.S. Attorney's office "informed us that The Times is not a focus of the investigation."

Sounds like they could be preparing the grounds for some kind of antitrust or restraint of trade charge, doesn't it? Should be fun to watch and see if the yellowest of the yellow press gets its comeuppance at last as the Grey Lady looks on snootily and sniggers, thus: Slam Comes to Slap as The Post and The News Fight It Out.

At last, an issue that eclipses even the cut-and-slash over Paris's breakup and the results of Britney's pregnancy test: circulation padding. Yesterday, under the screamer, "Paper Probe Grows," The Post said The News had received a federal subpoena seeking information about its circulation practices. This, only a day after The Post crowed, under the headline "News Keeps Sinking," that it had "narrowed the gap on The Daily News." Advertisement Free IQ Test Meanwhile, The News trumpeted yesterday that "Feds Seek Post Records," reporting that its rival had received a subpoena from the United States attorney's office in Brooklyn seeking advertising and circulation records. Actually, The New York Times also received a subpoena yesterday from, and is cooperating with, the United States attorney, "which has informed us that The Times is not a focus of the investigation," said a spokeswoman, Catherine Mathis. But the News's story about The Post also called attention to "industry eyebrow-raising circulation gains after cutting its price in half - to 25 cents - on copies sold in the city." Yesterday, Martin Dunn, editorial director and deputy publisher of The News, commented: "I know I'm in the industry and my eyebrows are raised." To which Col Allan, editor in chief of The Post, fired back: "We have serious questions about what The Daily News publicly claims to be its sale." The latest fisticuffs followed an extraordinary three-page, 2,982-word investigative article in The Post last week claiming that practices involving retail and home-delivery distribution "could serve to artificially boost the News's paid circulation." Subsequently, The News's own riposte disputed those allegations, and a spokeswoman for the paper, Eileen Murphy, said that "all we do is in compliance with the rules" of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an industrywide clearinghouse and umpire. "It baffled me that The Post had someone there who could write anything as long as three pages, and spell a word as long as 'circulation,'" Mr. Dunn mused.

I'd personally just as soon they did one another in. Not that I'd like to see the fine journalists working at each paper out of a job: I'd just like to see the tabloid artists from the old British Empire run out of town in favor of some local publishing money with a stake in Gotham for Gothamites.

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