SUBURBAN PAPERS BENEFIT FROM SEATTLE STRIKE

By: Joel Davis

Circulation, Advertising Gains Reported





Suburban Seattle newspapers are enjoying a holiday bonus because
of the city’s newspaper strike as they garnered more readers and
advertisers as the impasse entered its second week. Editorial,
circulation, and advertising workers at The Seattle Times
and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (P-I) went on
strike Nov. 21. Last week, they remained in a stalemate with
management over pay and a 401(k) benefit plan.



“People keep asking me how long it’s going to last,” Pacific
Northwest Newspaper Guild spokesman Art Thiel said. “It’s like
asking a soldier going to war how long he thinks it will last.
Who knows?”



Meanwhile, other area newspapers are more than happy to pick up
the slack. Dailies surrounding the city all have seen upswings in
circulation and advertising. Many of the new readers are single-

copy buyers, and most of the new advertising has been in the
classified sections, although the papers also are placing more
run-of-press (ROP) ads and pre-prints for national retailers as
the holiday shopping season intensifies.



David A. Zeeck, executive editor of The News Tribune in
Tacoma, said the 127,629-circulation paper is selling as many as
10,000 more copies a day. “It’s been a good success for us,” he
said. “The big difference has been at the newsstand.” Zeeck added
that the McClatchy Co.-owned paper has “sharpened our news
coverage” in two bureaus in southern King County, where it
competes with the Times and P-I.



John Kelly, advertising director for The News Tribune,
said national retailers, such as J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Kmart,
have been “hedging their bets” by increasing their advertising
presence in the paper. “All we are trying to do is help
retailers,” he said. “They didn’t get a vote in this.”



At The Herald in Everett, the paper’s 52,361 circulation
has grown by as much as 7%, while advertising also has increased,
said General Manager Allen Funk, who added that, due to the
strike, “We’ve picked up some auto dealers we haven’t seen in
some time that normally run in the Times and P-I.
If they see some customers, maybe they will become a regular
buy.”



Executives at The Olympian (circulation 38,698) in
Olympia, The Sun (33,552) in Bremerton, and the
Eastside Journal (26,190) in Bellevue also reported
upticks in circulation and advertising.



Strikers’ newspaper side drama



A side drama has developed at the Eastside Journal, which
printed the first issue of the Seattle strikers’ newspaper, the
Seattle Union Record, then abruptly declined to print
subsequent issues. While the Guild contends that the
Journal canceled additional print jobs after receiving a
heated e-mail message from Seattle Times Publisher Frank
Blethen, Journal Publisher Peter Horvitz said that’s not
what happened.



“We assumed it was a one-time print job, an internal publication
for Guild members, and we made the wrong assumption,” Horvitz
said. “Frank did send me an e-mail. He never asked me not to
print it. He did send an e-mail expressing he was not happy.”



Guild spokesman Thiel said Horvitz’s contention that the strike
paper was printed by accident “is a big crock. … They knew
exactly what it was. They got an e-mail from Frank Blethen, who
apparently also sent an e-mail to every publisher in the state.”



Seattle Times Co. President and Chief Operating Officer H. Mason
Sizemore said Blethen only e-mailed Horvitz. “He did not send an
e-mail to the other publishers asking them not to publish the
newspaper.” The Union Record has since found another
printer whose name and location are being kept a secret.



The Times and P-I, meanwhile, have continued to
publish and are distributing copies at newsstands for free while
offering credits to subscribers. “We delivered to 100% of our
circulation the first day of the strike,” Sizemore said. “There
may be other examples of that happening during a major strike,
but I don’t know of any.”



While Sizemore said the financial impact of the strike is unknown
(“most of our finance people are redeployed in other jobs”), a
labor expert who teaches at New York Law School believes
“profitability problems” at the Times – the larger of
the two papers and the employer of most of the strikers – is
driving management’s position. Seth Harris, who has been a legal
counsel for the U.S. Department of Labor, said the family-run
Times Co. – which has come under fire by minority partner
Knight Ridder for not being more profitable – may be taking
a hard line now to enhance the bottom line later by keeping
salaries under control. Said Harris, “They may be making a
calculation of short-term loss for long-term profitability.”







Joel Davis (jdavis@editorandpublisher.com) is West Coast editor for E&P.







Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher.

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