‘Tulsa World’ Files Libel Suit Over Circ Numbers

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The Tulsa World newspaper has filed a libel suit against Urban Tulsa Weekly columnist Michael Bates, saying he falsely claimed the World had misled advertisers about circulation figures.

Publisher Robert E. Lorton III said in a story published Jan. 16 that when a firm “purportedly in the news business makes a claim that we have misled our advertisers, they call into question our integrity, and we cannot and will not let that stand.”

The World initially sued the weekly, its editor, publisher and Bates, but announced yesterday that it had dropped all but the columnist from the lawsuit.

Lorton said the World objected to Bates’ claim in the weekly’s Jan. 15 issue that the World concealed circulation declines from 1997 to 2007. Bates specifically alleged that a 2006 report by the Audit Bureau of Circulation “suggests the World was inflating its circulation by as much as 20 percent.”

The World said the ABC audit showed drops of 6% in daily circulation and 5% in Sunday circulation for the period in question.

The lawsuit does not dispute that the newspaper’s print editions have followed industry trends toward smaller circulation over the past decade, but it does dispute Bates’ claim that the losses were concealed or might have been greater than reported.

Urban Tulsa Weekly Publisher Keith Skrzypcak says the weekly will run a retraction in this week’s issue regarding a column about the World’s circulation.

The World had argued that Bates and Skrzypcak knowingly published the false information in an attempt to “gain commercial advantage.”

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