- NEW YORK -- American
newspapers were embroiled in another scandal yesterday following the resignation
of two publishers prompted by an investigation into fraudulent circulation
figures intended to increase advertising revenues.
- The publishers of New York Newsday and its Hispanic sister
paper, Hoy, stepped down when an investigation exposed deceit stretching
back several years.
- "There was a rogue operation - a violation of trust,"
said Raymond Jansen, Newsday's former publisher, who resigned on Monday
along with Louis Sito, the publisher of Hoy.
- On Monday, Newsday published a 4,000-word two-page mea
culpa with a headline stating: "Pressure fed the problems," and
a subhead saying: "A relentless drive to hit circulation goals and
a sell-at-any-cost attitude has led to a crisis at Newsday and calls for
- Yesterday, Newsday's own report described how Mr Jansen
was stepping down "amid a spreading circulation scandal that some
have called the worst to hit the newspaper industry in decades".
- Newsday has now reduced its circulation figures by 7%,
from 580,000, to 540,000, for papers sold during the week, while the Tribune
group, which owns it, has set aside $35m (about £18.8m) to repay
- Federal and local authorities have begun investigations
and several months ago advertisers filed suit claiming the paper's circulation
- "What I saw at Newsday in the late 1990s was pressure
for [circulation] numbers that were impossible to hit and having to do
all kinds of cheating to hit the numbers," Doug Wesley, a consultant
hired to revitalise the paper's customer service operation, told a team
of Newsday reporters who were told to investigate the scandal.
- According to the inquiry, efforts to inflate the figures
ranged from the crude practice of sending people the paper who had never
asked for it, to manipulating industry rules, and fabrication.
- In the six months to March 2004, 15.5 % of the paper's
circulation was due to deeply discounted sales - the highest proportion
of the country's top 20 circulation papers.
- Newsstand vendors were also strong-armed into taking
papers they did not want.
- "If a dealer didn't want Hoy ... he's more or less
threatened: then you aren't getting the paper [Newsday]," said one
employee of Newsday's transport department.
- A former employee in the circulation department said:
"There were times when they would start home delivery for a thousand
people or more for customers who never requested it."
- Newsday's fall from grace is the latest in a long list
of scandals to have blighted US journalism over the past year.
- The New York Times recently published an extended correction
over its coverage of the run-up to the Iraq war and last year lost its
two most senior editors in a scandal over deceit by a reporter, Jayson
- USA Today's editor also resigned after its star foreign
reporter, Jack Kelley, was found to have fabricated and plagiarised his
- Newsday's problems do not suggest a fall in editorial
standards but an institutional dependence on sharp business practices that
could be even more damaging financially.
- As one distributor told the Newsday reporters: "We
were told not to take any names off the computer even if they were dead.
We could not get customers off the records. We even delivered to addresses
where the house had been burned down."
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