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Dallas Paper Overstated Its Circulation

August 06, 2004|From Reuters

Media company Belo Corp. on Thursday said it overstated its circulation numbers at the Dallas Morning News, making it the latest newspaper company to disclose inflated distribution numbers.

Belo, which also owns the Press-Enterprise in Riverside and 19 television stations, said the Dallas newspaper would report a greater-than-expected decline in its September circulation figures. It also said the newspaper's vice president of operations in charge of circulation had resigned. Belo did not name the executive.

"An internal investigation, which is ongoing, has disclosed practices and procedures that led to an overstatement in circulation, primarily in single-copy sales," the company said in a news release.

Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times, said in June that an internal audit had uncovered inflated numbers at Newsday, a paper based in Melville, N.Y. on Long Island, and at Hoy, Tribune's Spanish language paper. Hollinger International Inc. said in June that the Chicago Sun-Times had overstated circulation.

The disclosures come as U.S. newspapers are emerging from a years-long advertising slump. Ad rates for print media are tied closely to circulation.

Belo Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Decherd ordered reviews in June of circulation practices at all of the company's newspapers, the Belo release said. The company said it did not expect any significant issues to arise from reviews at its other two major papers, the Providence Journal in Rhode Island and the Press-Enterprise.

Belo, based in Dallas, said the Morning News overstated its daily circulation 1.5% and its Sunday circulation 5%.

A Belo spokesman declined to elaborate on the news release.

Shares of Belo fell 34 cents to $23.21 on the New York Stock Exchange. The news was released after the market closed.

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