ABC Punishes ‘Newsday,’ ‘Sun-Times’ for Circ Fraud

By: Jennifer Saba

The board of directors of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which just wrapped up its meeting in Vancouver, unanimously voted to slap the Chicago Sun-Times, Newsday of Melville, N.Y., and Hoy for circulation fraud.

The most damning of the sanctions: All three papers are to be excluded from next year’s FAS-FAX reports, issued every September and March. The reports will explain the absence of the papers by noting they are under “censure.” Also, the papers must undergo audits every six months, as opposed to once year and they will be required to “submit to the ABC board a plan of action for correcting their practices.”

“Each member of the ABC Board agrees that we, as an industry, do not tolerate rules circumvention, to say nothing of fraud, and will do whatever is necessary to preserve the trust between publishers and advertisers that all sides value so highly,” said Robert Troutbeck, board chairman at ABC, in a statement.

Newsday and Hoy, both owned by Chicago’s Tribune Co., released statements this afternoon practically praising ABC for the imposed measures. “The actions announced today by ABC are both reasonable and appropriate … We want Newsday’s circulation department to set industry-leading standards,” said Raymond Jansen, publisher and CEO of Newsday.

Likewise, Louis Sito, publisher of Hoy and vice president of Tribune Publishing, said in a statement, “Hoy views the actions announced by ABC as reasonable and appropriate.”

The meeting also set about repairing any damage inflicted on ABC as a result of the scandals, further defining the “censure” provision of its bylaws. Any paper with a 5% discrepancy between its Publisher’s Statement and Audited Report will be subject to punishment, which also includes a cash fine. ABC did not disclose the amount. The Sun-Times, Newsday and Hoy were not charged with a fine in this situation.

The board also started to review other rules to be addressed during its November meeting including, limiting the number of days under the “omitted day” rule to 10 and putting sponsorship and barter sales under the microscope.

“The actions represent first steps in the process for preserving trust between publishers and advertisers. Together, we are committed to making this process work,” said S. Scott Harding, chairman and CEO of Newspapers Services of America, in a statement. Harding is a member of the ABC board.

The Newspaper Association of America also backed the ABC. “We believe in the ABC audit process … NAA members are committed to preserving the integrity of circulation reporting on which that credibility is built,” said CEO John Sturm. “ABC audited circulation substantiates an important metric of the value a newspaper provides an advertiser.”

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