Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Numbers Game in Detroit: Striking Unions Rap News and Free Press for Not Releasing Audited Circulation Figures

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Numbers Game in Detroit: Striking Unions Rap News and Free Press for Not Releasing Audited Circulation Figures

Article excerpt

Just how badly has the 10-month strike by six unions hurt circulation at Detroit's two dailies?

The unions say they think they know - and released a report based on Detroit Newspapers' internal documents claiming combined paid circulation of the jointly produced Detroit Free Press and Detroits News is down 53% to an average 409,000 during the week and down 48% to 564,000 on Sundays.

Nonsense, responds the newspapers' joint operating agency.

"We know our circulation is above 600,000 daily and above 800,000 on Sundays," said Susie Ellwood, vice president of marketing development for Detroit Newspapers.

Those numbers are in line with the newspapers' repeated assertions that circulation is down about 25% since the strike.

Before the walkout, the combined circulation of the separate weekday editions of the News and Free Press averaged 886,228. Circulation of the combined Sunday paper was 1,107,645.

Ellwood said the unions' charge that the newspapers are ducking Audit Bureau of Circulations' audits is "ludicrous." The papers have not filed publisher circulations statements since the strike started july 1995 - including the recently released Audit Bureau FAS-FAX report covering the six months ended March 31 - but Ellwood said an Audit Bureau audit will be released this summer.

"We've had ABC auditors on premises since January," Ellwood said. "We expect to have an audit covering January, February and March by June or early July."

Further, the only reason the newspapers have not filed formal circulation results is because the Audit Bureau has asked them not to, Ellwood said.

"This is new to them, too," she said. "There really has not been another metro newspaper that published and delivered during a strike."

According to the unions, however, the Free Press and News may be printing a lot of newspapers - but they aren't delivering or getting paid for them.

"They're killing a lot of trees, but they're not sell a lot of papers," said Al Derey, chairman of the Metropolitan Council of Newspaper Unions, the umbrella organization for the unions representing about 2,000 striking Detroit newspaper employees.

Both newspapers are carrying "millions of dollars in unpaid and uncollectable bills," Derey said.

The circulation system "is in a shambles," he added.

Derey said the unions' research found that paid home delivery circulation has taken the biggest hit. …

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