Audit Report Released on Censured Dallas Paper; Circ Down Sharply

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By: Jennifer Saba

The Audit Bureau of Circulations today released its audit report on the censured Dallas Morning News for the six-month period ending March 2005.

ABC also announced today that it has withdrawn the paper’s publisher’s statements for the six-month periods ending September 2003 and March 2004 and the audit report for the 12-month period ending March 2003.

The bureau confirmed that the paper experienced a drop of 9.6% or 50,000 copies in daily circulation, to 477,493, and a Sunday drop of 13.2% or 100,000 copies, to 655,809, compared to the same period last year. The paper had previously announced these figures.

In a statement released today, Belo Chairman, President, and CEO Robert Decherd said, “We are very pleased to have these 2005 audited figures to provide the Morning News advertisers as we continue to build our business together. This audit and the upcoming September 2005 audit will provide the important baseline from which we and our advertisers gauge future circulation performance.”

Decherd explained the large drop occurred because of the “irregular comparison to the March 2004 figures” and the changes implemented in the distribution and circulation process in the wake of the scandal.

As for the pulled publisher’s statements and audit report, ABC said they could not verify all the data — mostly related to third-party records. The incomplete information caused the bureau to withdraw reports for those periods. No new reports will replace them.

Additionally, the Morning News is required by censure regulations to undergo three more mandatory six-month audits until September 2006. The Morning News volunteered to add an additional audit for the six-month period ending March 2007 so the paper could get back on its annual cycle.

For the period ending March 2005, the Morning News recorded an average of 10.4% of its daily circulation as other paid. Newspapers in Education made up the majority of that category, at 36%, followed by third-party home delivered copies at 29%. The paper omitted a total of five days for the period.

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